Thursday, April 26, 2007

Survey Results: We Don't Know Much About the Sound

Here are some excerpts from the Long Island Sound survey (click here to see my earlier post) that seemed to me most interesting and relevant:

Residents hold mixed views of the safety and quality of water in the Long Island Sound. Long Island residents, who use the Sound more heavily than residents of other coastal watershed regions, are more likely to believe that water quality is good. In contrast, Westchester and Bronx/Queens residents, who visit the Sound less often, perceived it to be more polluted and less safe for swimming and fishing. These differing perceptions may reflect reality. The western section of Long Island Sound has experienced poorer water quality over time than the eastern section. Moreover, roughly a quarter of residents from Westchester, Bronx, and Queens do not know enough to comment on the water quality of the Sound. ...

A majority of Long Island (59%) and Connecticut (57%) residents feel it is safe to swim in the Sound, compared to a little over a third of people from Westchester (37%) and the Bronx/Queens (36%). Of course, that still leaves roughly a third of Long Island and Connecticut
residents who view the Sound as unsafe for swimming. There are similar regional differences in the perceived safety of local fish and shellfish for human consumption. Over half of Long Islanders (54%), and just under a half of Connecticut (48%) residents feel it is safe to eat fish and shellfish from the Sound, compared to 36% of people from Bronx and Queens, and 28% from Westchester....

Long Island Sound also gets mixed reviews from residents when they were asked outright to rate water quality. A majority of LIS watershed residents in all four regions rate water quality as fair or poor. Once again, Long Island residents hold the most positive views of the Sound but even a majority of Long Island residents rate the water quality as fair or poor. Only 40% of Long Islanders felt the water quality was excellent or good. There was no difference between eastern (Suffolk) and western (Nassau) residents in their rating of water quality. Perceptions of water quality are worse in other regions of the LIS watershed with only 30% of Connecticut residents, 21% of Bronx and Queens residents, and 13% of Westchester residents rating it as excellent or good. We should also note that almost 2 out of every 10 watershed residents in the Bronx /Queens and Westchester could not rate water quality …. Western residents of Connecticut rated water quality as somewhat worse (64% rated it as fair or poor) than those living in the east (51%), perhaps reflecting actual differences in water quality....

It is important to underscore that more frequent use of the Sound is related to a positive rating of water quality. In general, residents who recently participated in a greater variety of activities at the Sound were more likely than others to rate the water quality positively and view it as having improved over the last five years. For example, of those who had undertaken at least three different activities at the Sound last summer (either going to the beach, hiking, swimming, boating, or fishing), 42% rated the water quality as good or excellent, compared to only 19% of those who had not done anything at the Sound (Figure 3). Of course, even those who had been relatively active at the Sound and engaged in at least three different activities, still had reservations about water quality....

Most residents on Long Island (85%), Connecticut (77%), and to a lesser extent Westchester (53%) have an outdoor garden or lawn for which they are responsible. And a majority of these lawns are cared for by a household member. Use of a gardening service (solely or in combination with care provided by a household resident) is most common on Long Island (46%), followed by Westchester (38%), Bronx/Queens (34%) and was least common in Connecticut (19%). Most garden owners use fertilizers, a major source of nonpoint pollution, on their lawn. With the exception of Connecticut residents, just under a half of garden owners fertilized their lawns more than once a year, a rate that probably exceeds recommended practice. Between a quarter and a third of residents in all regions fertilized their lawns roughly once a year. Lawn fertilization was least common in Connecticut where a greater number of residents never fertilized their lawn (26% compared to about 13% on Long Island). There had been no obvious change in the rate of lawn fertilization with almost three-quarters of lawn owners reporting that they fertilized their lawn at the same rate as five years ago. Garden owners were also asked whether or not they used a slow or fast release fertilizer. Roughly a third used a fast release product and another third did not know, suggesting that up to two-thirds have not adopted slow-release products designed to reduce nonpoint water pollution. There was no east-west difference in the use of slow fertilizer on Long island or Connecticut....

On the question concerning the single most important source of water pollution in the Sound, we included both sewage treatment facilities and water runoff as correct answers. No more than 40% of residents in any area got this right…

Although environmental knowledge is low, concern is high, a finding that emerges within the nation as a whole…. Roughly 90% of residents in all regions agree that humans are severely abusing the environment. Between 60 and 70% disagree that the balance of nature is strong enough to cope with the impacts of modern industrial nations. Somewhere between 45% and 65% of residents across the different regions of the LIS watershed feel the “ecological crisis” has not been greatly exaggerated. Between 70% and 80% agree that if things continue on their present course, we will soon experience a major ecological catastrophe. And roughly 70% said protecting the environment was more important to them than encouraging economic growth....

Despite evidence to the contrary, roughly 70% of residents do not believe they do anything that worsens the quality of water in the Long Island Sound. A closer look revealed that those who thought they did not affect water quality negatively were just as likely to partake in harmful activities (e.g. washing car in driveway, using the quick release fertilizer), as those who thought they may affect it negatively. Moreover, a majority of residents did not think there was anything they could do to improve the quality of water in Long Island Sound, although they believed that if other residents changed their everyday behavior water quality in the Sound would improve (Figures 7 & 8). This suggests a deep-seated failure to understand (or care about) how one’s personal behavior impacts local water quality....

I couldn't find anything in the survey about an overal margin of error, but here what it says about margins of error in different regions:

The margin of error varies in each region. It is +/- 4.9% on Long Island, +/- 4.4% in Connecticut, +/- 6.8% in Westchester and +/- 9.5% in the Bronx/Queens.

The Bronx/Queens margin of error is high, and when you consider that the strip of water between the Bronx and Queens is consistently referred to as the East River (which it's not) rather than Long Island Sound, maybe that accounts for some of the ignorance about the Sound and its problems in those boroughs. I put less faith therefore in the survey results for the Bronx and Queens. The rest of it seems not just fascinating and instructive, but pretty solid.

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1 Comments:

Anonymous Jennifer Wilson-Pines said...

Not a big surprise. I meet them everyday. This past weekend when it hit 80 and I went down to Manorhaven beach with my three-year-old daughter, a woman came marching down to the water to inform me that I shouldn’t let her wade up to her ankles because, “They put in chemicals that will give her a rash. Lots of kids in my class have gotten a rash.” Now the really scary part is that I assume she is some kind of teacher. I informed her that I was actually in a position to know that wasn’t true, gave her the water quality stats for the last 3 years, which she received with deep suspicion, finally asking, “Where can I find this on the web?” Or the self-described environmentalist who didn’t know that LI’s drinking water comes from aquifer fed wells. There is some progress. I went to a meeting and listened to people express concerns about over development and water quality, spitting out bits of information in somewhat erratic fashion. I was actually encouraged, because it meant that some of the information is being absorbed in to the general knowledge base, just not the specifics.
Jennifer Wilson-Pines
Chair, Manhasset Bay Protection Committee

5:53 PM  

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