HEMPSTEAD, Nassau County (WABC) -- If you ate clams or oysters at a restaurant in the town of Hempstead recently, you were helping a new barrier reef project.
The town has been collecting thousands of shells from about a dozen restaurants throughout the past few years, and the first round of shells were dumped into an area of Middle Bay Thursday.
The goal is to restore a barrier island there, which protects against coastal storm surges.
"Constructing living shore lines by using natural substances such as clam and oyster shells protect our marshes by reducing the wave energy and allowing fine sediment to rebuild the marsh," said Maureen Murphy, with Citizens Campaign for the Environment.
Oysters absorb toxic nitrogen from the water, and the reefs will also encourage new oyster populations to grow.
The town said it will continue to identify weak and vulnerable areas in the back bays to determine locations that could use the shell replenishment.
"It is our hope that with this living reef project, we will be able to vastly restore the ability of our barrier islands and other barrier islands to mitigate the flooding associated with storm surges," Hempstead Town Supervisor Laura Gillen said.
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Clam, oyster shells used for barrier reef project on Long Island