Long Island Business News
Voters in Mastic and Babylon recently expressed overwhelming support not just for clean water, but for an improved quality of life in their communities.
By approving referendums to create two new sewer districts, voters determined that some 6,500 homes in their communities will switch from cesspools and septic systems to sewers to treat their wastewater. The referendums gave residents a unique opportunity to directly support major investments offering significant environmental and economic benefits.
Sewers are a catalyst for improving communities and upgrading the quality of life of residents. The Long Island Regional Planning Council’s economic study of Patchogue, released last month, bears out that conclusion. Our study found that the existence of sewers was a key factor in the village’s remarkable economic revitalization, which has been one of Long Island’s foremost community improvement success stories.
Improved water quality that results from reliable, effective wastewater treatment systems can help make communities a more attractive place to live, raise property values and create better recreational opportunities. For businesses, it can be the impetus for expansion, investment, and growth, and creating healthier, more vibrant downtowns and commercial areas.
In fact, observers have said these new projects represent our region’s most significant sewer expansion since the 1970s; they certainly are two of the most direct actions toward reducing harmful nitrogen pollution that for decades has been responsible for degrading both surface and groundwater on Long Island.
While there’s a significant list of initiatives underway to reduce nitrogen flowing into our waterways, including a host of programs under the Long Island Nitrogen Action Plan, the establishment of two new sewer districts should help increase momentum toward expanding existing sewer systems and creating new ones in Suffolk County, where over 70 percent of homes rely on cesspools and septic systems that are not designed to actively treat wastewater.
That expansion could include Mastic Beach where a combination of a high water table, flood tides and storms, and decades of nitrogen pollution from outdated, poorly functioning or broken septic systems and cesspools, have contributed significantly to polluting the Great South Bay and Forge River, which is described as the most polluted waterway in Suffolk County.
But, the effort certainly does not stop with sewering. Improving water quality on Long Island is one of the Long Island Regional Planning Council’s primary goals. The Council partners with the State Department of Environmental Conservation, Nassau and Suffolk Counties in managing the Long Island Nitrogen Action Plan, or LINAP.
LINAP is a multi-year initiative with an array of projects in both Nassau and Suffolk – including testing and monitoring, public education, research, remediation programs and others – designed to reduce nitrogen in our surface and ground waters. LINAP has been described as one of the most significant environmental initiatives in this region since the preservation of the Pine Barrens.
Suffolk County’s strategy of focusing its efforts on some of the most environmentally sensitive locations in the county was especially prudent. The new sewer projects in Mastic and Babylon are significant steps toward reclaiming some of our region’s most valuable natural resources, including the Forge and Carlls rivers and Great South Bay.
The $360 million in federal and state grants that will be spent to create these new sewer systems will not be easy to replicate and there are certainly many competing needs for infrastructure improvements. Still, few initiatives hold as much potential for improving communities as do sewers.
John Cameron is chairman of the Long Island Regional Planning Council.