Publications—Scientific Investigations Report 2007-5051

Prepared in cooperation with the National Park Service

Nitrogen Loading in Jamaica Bay, Long Island, New York: Predevelopment to 2005

By Mark J. Benotti, Michele Abbene, and Stephen A. Terracciano

U.S. Geological Survey Scientific Investigations Report 2007-5051

The body of the report is available in PDF Format (1,354 KB)

This report is available Online Only


Nitrogen loading to Jamaica Bay, a highly urbanized estuary on the southern shore of western Long Island, New York, has increased from an estimated rate of 35.6 kilograms per day (kg/d) under predevelopment conditions (pre-1900), chiefly as nitrate plus nitrite from ground-water inflow, to an estimated 15,800 kilograms per day as total nitrogen in 2005. The principal point sources are wastewater-treatment plants, combined sewer overflow/stormwater discharge during heavy precipitation, and subway dewatering, which account for 92 percent of the current (2005) nitrogen load. The principal nonpoint sources are landfill leachate, ground-water flow, and atmospheric deposition, which account for 8 percent of the current nitrogen load. The largest single source of nitrogen to Jamaica Bay is wastewater-treatment plants, which account for 89 percent of the nitrogen load. The current and historic contributions of nitrogen from seawater are unknown, although at present, the ocean likely serves as a sink for nitrogen from Jamaica Bay. Currently, concentrations of nitrogen in surface water are high throughout Jamaica Bay, but some areas with relatively little mixing have concentrations that are five times higher than areas that are well mixed.




Purpose and Scope

Study Area

Nitrogen Loading to Jamaica Bay

Point Sources

Wastewater-Treatment Plants

Combined Sewer Overflows (CSOs) and Stormwater Discharge

Subway Dewatering

Nonpoint Sources


Ground Water

Atmospheric Deposition

Current Nitrogen Loading to Jamaica Bay

Summary and Conclusions

References Cited


  1. Map showing location of Jamaica Bay, Long Island, N.Y., and selected point and nonpoint sources of nitrogen.
  2. Model output showing age and extent of surface-water mixing at three sites on Jamaica Bay, Long Island, N.Y, as defined by a coupled hydrodynamic/water-quality model.
  3. Plots showing average annual concentrations (± standard deviation) of five nitrogen species at three sites in Jamaica Bay, Long Island, N.Y.
  4. Plots showing daily loads of total nitrogen (TN) and biological oxygen demand (BOD, ± standard deviation) in the effluents from four large municipal wastewater-treatment plants that discharge into Jamaica Bay, N.Y.
  5. Plot showing summed total loads of nitrogen (± standard deviation) during 1991–2005 from four wastewater-treatment plants to Jamaica Bay, N.Y.
  6. Box plots showing concentrations of ammonia and of nitrate plus nitrite in water from wells in the Jamaica Bay watershed during six periods of Long Island development and the corresponding modeled ground-water discharges to Jamaica Bay: (A) ammonia; (B) nitrate plus nitrite.
  7. Plots showing atmospheric wet- and dry-deposition of nitrogen species in the Jamaica Bay area (mean ± standard deviation) calculated from data from three Clean Air Status and Trends Network sampling locations in New Jersey, New York, and Connecticut.


  1. Characteristics of six wastewater-treatment plants that discharge to Jamaica Bay, Long Island, N.Y.
  2. Combined sewer overflows/stormwater (CSO) daily average flow and daily nitrogen loads to Jamaica Bay.
  3. 1991 and 2004 discharges to Jamaica Bay, Long Island, N.Y., from subway dewatering, and average concentrations and loads of nitrogen species in ground water entering Jamaica Bay.
  4. Estimated loads of nitrogen entering Jamaica Bay, Long Island, N.Y., from landfill leachate.
  5. Ground-water discharges to Jamaica Bay, Long Island, N.Y., during predevelopment period (pre-1900) and recent periods (1974, 1983, 1991, 1996, 1999).
  6. Calculated loads of nitrogen species entering Jamaica Bay, Long Island, N.Y., through ground-water discharge during six selected time periods.
  7. Loads of nitrogen to Jamaica Bay under predevelopment and current conditions.

Suggested Citation

Benotti, M.J., Abbene, Irene., and Terracciano, S.A., 2007, Nutrient Loading in Jamaica Bay, Long Island, New York: Predevelopment to 2005: U.S. Geological Survey Scientific Investigations Report 2007–5051, 17 p, online only.

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