Jamaica Bay oyster restoration gets help from recycled toilets

What a pearl of an idea!

Broken porcelain from recycled toilets taken out of New York City public schools is helping to resurrect the bivalve’s presence in Jamaica Bay.

The toilet shards, making up oyster “receiving beds,” are but one nifty aspect of a joint effort by the city’s Department of Environmental Protection and the Billion Oyster Project that is planting 50,000 oysters in Jamaica Bay — the largest single installation of the saltwater clams so far in the city, according to NYC officials.

Oysters — once plentiful in area waters — vanished decades ago as a result of over-harvesting, dredging and pollution, but are essential consituents of a healthy marine ecosystem. Oysters filter pollutants out of the water, boost the health of habitats for fish and other aquatic wildlife, and help to protect wetlands and shoreline from erosion and storm surges. This is especially important in Jamaica Bay, where shorelines are eroding at an accelerated rate.

Students from the Urban Assembly New York Harbor School on Governors Island are assisting with the installation of the oysters and helping to monitor the oyster beds.

The porcelain used in four “receiving beds” for future oyster larvae comes from 5,000 toilets removed from schools that were replaced with more water-efficient loos. The hope is that fertilized eggs of spawning adult oysters will attach themselves to the clam and oyster shells and porcelain shards that comprise the receiving beds.

The project is being funded with a $1 million grant from the U.S. Department of the Interior (and administered by the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation) and $375,000 contributed by DEP.