Suffolk County Vanderbilt Museum has installed two innovative systems for processing wastewater that significantly reduce the harmful impact of nitrogen pollution in the Northport Bay. The new technology builds on the county’s efforts to address excess nitrogen from wastewater leaching into local waters, which once the epicenter of the region’s red tide.
County Executive Steve Bellone (D) and county Legislator William “Doc” Spencer (D-Centerport) announced the installations at an Oct. 30 press event at the museum.
“The science is clear and the solution has been established,” Bellone said.
He noted that it is necessary to replace outdated technologies that do not reduce nitrogen pollution with new technologies that do.
“We have a $6.1 billion tourism economy that is underpinned by water,” Bellone added. “With strong support from academia, business leaders and the environmental community, our region is no longer kicking the can down the road, but is taking aggressive action to reverse the water quality crisis to better protect our waterways for future generations.”
More than 115,000 people visit the park each year and the upgrade will benefit local waterways by reducing nitrogen discharge at the site by approximately 164 pounds annually.
To date, the county has installed advanced wastewater treatment systems at Lake Ronkonkoma and Meschutt Beach, and is currently in the process of installing 13 additional systems at other parks.
The major contributor to water quality issues, Spencer said, is nitrogen discharges from more than 360,000 antiquated cesspools in Suffolk.
“I am so pleased to see this technology brought to our county parks, specifically the Vanderbilt Museum, which sits directly beside a water body that we have worked so hard to restore,” Spencer added. He said upgrades to Northport’s sewage treatment plant resulted in a massive reduction in nitrogen discharge, and produced tangible benefits including the absence of red tide and the reopening of a permanently closed Centerport beach.
The investment at Vanderbilt is expected to progress, improve and protect the region’s natural resources, Spencer added.
Officials also announced at the press event that during the month of October alone, more than 100 residents have applied for grants through the county’s septic improvement program, and that next year the county plans to install 1,200 nitrogen-reducing wastewater treatment systems, doubling the amount currently installed.
Adrienne Esposito, executive director of Citizens Campaign for the Environment, applauded the progress and collaborative efforts of everyone involved.
“This is what change looks like, one installation at a time,” she said. “Good science, good advocacy and good elected officials give us good policy, and fortunately that’s what we have seen on the water quality issue in Suffolk County.”
The installation of the new systems is part of the county’s Reclaim Our Water initiative, which seeks to reduce nitrogen pollution of surface and groundwaters.
Homeowners outside of a sewer district are encouraged to apply for grant funding and low interest loans to assist in paying to upgrade to an innovative system. Visit www.reclaimourwater.info to find out more.