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Nitrate concentrations in ground water on Long Island, New York, have increased markedly in the last 30 years. A significant amount of this increase has been attributed to lawn and garden fertilizers in addition to cesspool and septic-tank discharges. The increase in nitrate concentration is of particular concern in the central and eastern part of the island, where ground water is the sole source of drinking water. Ground-water samples were collected from 14 wells screened near the water table in the sewered Twelve Pines housing development constructed in Medford, Suffolk County, in 1970. Samples were collected during 1972-79 and analyzed for total ammonium, organic nitrogen, and nitrate. Statistical analyses indicate that concentrations of nitrate-nitrogen in water from 10 of the wells increased significantly during 1972-79; those in water from the other four wells did not. Nitrogen loads were estimated to be 2,300 kg/yr from fertilizers, less than 80 kg/yr from irrigation water, 200 kg/yr from animals, and less than 670 kg/yr from precipitation. Leakage from sewers was considered negligible. Nitrate-nitrogen isotope ratios also suggest that the greatest source of nitrogen is from cultivation sources (either mineralized soil nitrogen or fertilizers) rather than human or animal wastes.
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Sources of nitrate in ground water in a sewered housing development, Central Long Island, New York