The push to clean up Suffolk County’s water quality saw a major milestone on one Centerport shorefront Monday.
Lawmakers and community members gathered at the Centerport Yacht Club on Northport Harbor on a hot summer day to mark the reopening of the beach, which had been shuttered for seven years because of its poor water quality. The harbor is celebrating a cleaner bill of health thanks to multi-governmental efforts to reduce pollution — most significantly through recent upgrades to the Northport wastewater treatment plant.
“Today is unprecedented due to the efforts of many stakeholders,” Suffolk County Legislator William “Doc” Spencer (D-Centerport) announced at a press conference inside the clubhouse. “…This is the result of a lot of hard work.”
Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone (D), Spencer and a number of Huntington Town officials including Supervisor Frank Petrone (D) cut the ribbon opening the beach, and the county officials hand-delivered a beach permit to the supervisor.
The Suffolk County Department of Health Services, with oversight from the New York State Department of Health, conducted more than 600 tests in 20 locations at the beach since April, Spencer said. The results found that the quality of the water meets “required stringent standards,” Spencer’s office said in a statement.
Northport Harbor, once the “epicenter of red tide in the Northeast,” has seen a dramatic reduction of nitrogen, from 19.4 lbs. per day to 7.5 lbs. And there’s been no red tide in the harbor in the last three seasons, Spencer’s office said.
Officials said a significant upgrade to the Northport sewage treatment plant had a huge hand in turning the tide.
Bellone, who said the county is facing a “water quality crisis,” recognized Northport Village officials for being on top of the issue. He called the rehabilitation of Northport Harbor an “example of what we need to do around the county.”
Petrone and Bellone said Spencer had a big hand in making waves on the issue.
“The doctor’s orders worked,” Petrone said.
The issue of Northport Harbor’s water quality gained steam among Centerport Yacht Club members when Joe Marency, past commodore, was at the helm about five years ago. He praised the beach reopening at Monday’s press conference.
“There’s still a lot to do but this is a big step in the right direction,” he said.
At the close of the press conference, lawmakers gathered outside the club on the water. They excitedly uprooted a “no swimming” sign posted there, and Bellone and Spencer exclaimed, “Who’s going in?”
Assemblyman Andy Raia (R-East Northport) waded into the water, ankle-deep. It took a pair of bold bathers seconds to dart towards the shore and dive in.
“It’s beautiful and warm,” said Randall Fenderson, one of the swimmers who emerged from the water.
Fenderson, who presently lives in Santa Monica, California, said he grew up in the area and has a personal connection to the beach, and was sad to see it closed.
A group of children also made their way to the water, include Greenlawn sisters Paige and Madelyn Quigley. The girls, 6-years old and 10 years old, also said the water felt nice.
“Now we’ll be in here forever,” Madelyn said.