Tags Posts tagged with "Sewer"

Sewer

The corner of King and Oxalis road flooded as garbage cans floated to the center of the dip at the intersection following severe rainfall Aug. 18. Photo from Sara Wainwright

By Desirée Keegan

Rocky Point residents are flooded with emotion over the rise in water level during recent storms.

As rain fell on King and Oxalis roads during the heavy rainfall Aug. 18, residents reached out to Brookhaven Town’s highway department in search of answers as to why their questions of concern have not been answered.

“I know we sound like a broken record regarding the flooding conditions at King and Oxalis, but I am writing to continue to follow up on this situation,” Rocky Point resident Sara Wainwright wrote in a letter to the highway department. “We’ve been complaining for years about the flooding, which used to be occasional, and now occurs nearly every time it rains.”

Flooding runs down an almost mile-length on King Road in Rocky Point. Photo from Sara Wainwright

She said, and the highway department confirmed, that additional drains were added, but Wainwright claims they’re in places where they do not help to relieve the flooding, and said the town has to send out manpower and equipment to pump the drains almost every big storm.

“My husband, Frank, had a lengthy conversation with Kevin from the highway department, and members walked the property,” said Wainwright, who lives on King Road right across from the Oxalis intersection. “We suggested and Kevin agreed to look into installing additional drains on our property in front of our trees. We have heard nothing else on this since, and the conditions have continued to deteriorate with every storm.”

Brookhaven Town Highway Superintendent Dan Losquadro (R) said that 12 drainage structures have been installed in the specific area of Rocky Point over the last year to alleviate flooding conditions. He said the cost of the systems was more than $70,000.

But Wainwright and her neighbors say the streets are still dangerous during heavy rain.

“This is the worst we have seen from rain alone — the water is nearly up to my neighbor’s front walkway,” she said Aug. 18. “Highway department workers did drive by and they did mention there are other flooding conditions today, however this is an ongoing issue that I have been requesting help with for several years. Please do not try to pacify me with ‘we had lots of flooding everywhere today.’ Even the fire department sent out warnings to responders that the road is closed due to flooding here.”

Losquadro responded that “flooding everywhere” is part of the problem, but said recent studies have shown that there is still a drainage issue in the vicinity.

“When we have significant rain events like this morning — when nearly four inches of rain fell within a few hours — most drainage structures will struggle to dissipate the runoff quickly enough to maintain a water-free surface,” he said. “I am well aware of the conditions experienced this morning both in Rocky Point and across central and northern Brookhaven Town and immediately dispatched crews to these areas to pump out existing drainage structures to alleviate flooded road conditions.”

Wainwright said that cars still speed down the road as flooding persists, and said this summer a man was trapped in his car when it died as he passed through.

Flooding on King and Oxalis roads. Photo from Sara Wainwright

“Please let me know how the town plans to proceed to resolve this issue as opposed to using our tax dollars to send out, and put at risk, employees and equipment,” Wainwright wrote in the letter. “Cars travel very fast down this road and have no regard for your workers, unfortunately. Another time, a police car became stuck, and multiple others of cars travel so fast they send a wake over my treetops. I think you get my point.”

Brookhaven Town Councilwoman Jane Bonner (C-Rocky Point), who has lived in Rocky Point for the last 30 years, has witnessed the issue firsthand, and receives concerned calls and emails regarding the matter.

“Residents send me photos and ask for my help,” she said. “The highway department and Dan Losquadro have been doing a great job paving roads, repairing drains and putting out massive storm water infrastructure. As a resident of Rocky Point I know some flood spots are better than others, and I’m thankful I live at the top of a hill, but I have seen when the rain stops, it does drain pretty quickly. It’s a matter of massive pileup over a short period of time.”

Wainwright said at the very least, she feels there should be street signs indicating the risk of flood conditions, and a warning to signal drivers to slow down as they move through the at-risk streets.

“I’m concerned as the season progresses that we will see more rain and possibly tropical storm and hurricane conditions,” Wainwright said in her letter. “My neighbors and I should not need to worry about flooding at elevation — you must understand that is ridiculous. We are all taxpayers. Please communicate to us as to how you plan to use the money that we have all been paying to remedy this safety issue.”

Losquadro said his engineering division recently completed a drainage study in and around the area of King and Oxalis roads, and came to the conclusion that there is still some concern.

“I will be moving forward with additional drainage infrastructure to handle more volume than what had been designed for in the past,” he said, “thereby preventing this condition from happening again.”

Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone pitches the proposal. Photo from Steve Bellone

Suffolk County is delaying a bold proposal that would have charged residents a minimal fee to enhance water quality protection efforts.

In April, Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone (D) staged a press conference in the company of environmentalists and lawmakers to announce his plan to address nitrogen pollution in drinking and surface water across the region by charging an additional $1 per 1,000 gallons of water. It needed the state legislature’s blessing in order to go before Suffolk County residents in a referendum vote in November, and this month, Deputy County Executive Jon Schneider said in reports that the county would be holding off on the plan to allow more time before putting it on the ballot.

The proposal would have kicked in in 2018 and established what Bellone called a “water quality protection fee,” which would fund the conversion of homes from outdated septic systems to active treatment systems, the county executive said. He estimated the $1 surcharge would have generated roughly $75 million in revenue each year to be solely dedicated to reducing nitrogen pollution — and still keep Suffolk County’s water rates nearly 40 percent lower than the national average.

Peter Scully, deputy county executive and head of the water quality initiative, said in an interview that some state lawmakers showed no interest in advancing the proposal, forcing the county’s hand before putting it to a referendum.

He said that Bellone preferred this kind of surcharge be decided by residents via referendum.

“We received kind of a sobering indication from the state Senate that there was not enough support for the proposal to let the people of Suffolk County vote,” he said. “We decided that this appears to be more of a timing issue.”

Richard Amper, executive director of the Long Island Pine Barrens Society, endorsed the initial county proposal but said he was “mad as hell” over the decision to halt the plan for another year. In an interview with TBR News Media, Amper said the administration was handcuffed by state lawmakers who did not want to see Bellone’s plan come to fruition.

“If I had children, and they pulled something like this, I’d send them to their room,” Amper said. “The Bellone administration felt the Senate had made this decision for them. It was killed — not withdrawn.”

Amper said state Sen. John Flanagan (R-East Northport) expressed little interest in allowing Bellone’s proposal to come to a vote this November and accused him of playing political games with the environment.

“This is something they can’t not do something about,” Amper said. “It’s the biggest environmental and economic crisis this island ever faced.”

A spokesman for Flanagan issued the following statement: “Our office has always considered the merits of any legislative proposal advanced by Suffolk County’s elected officials, and we will continue to do so in the future.”

State Assemblyman Steve Englebright (D-Setauket) — a known environmental activist — said the measure would have done wonders for the state’s water supply.

“We’re really looking at an opportunity to correct some deficiencies that could, if left uncorrected, unhinge our economy, which is based upon people bathing and recreating in our coastal waters, fishing and otherwise enjoying our waters,” he said when it was announced. “For the first time, we are pulling a program together that integrates both our fresh water and saltwater in one protection initiative, and that is very significant.”

Some lawmakers, including county legislators Rob Trotta (R-Fort Salonga) and Leslie Kennedy (R-Nesconset) staged a press conference following Bellone’s proposal to express opposition, calling it unwelcomed taxation.

George Hoffman, of the Setauket Harbor Task Force, also stood behind Bellone’s proposal when it was announced and said it would benefit Suffolk County for decades to come. He said it was “one of the most far-reaching and important public policy issues in decades,” and said it was important to proceed slowly and “get it right” moving forward.

“I worked with the supervisor of Brookhaven in 2003 when the town put forward a $100 million dollar open space fund referendum that received over 70 percent voter approval — but we spent many months going out to the various communities and explaining why it was needed,” he said. “You can’t cut corners on big policy issues and when you need the voters to approve new funding sources like the proposed water surcharge.”

Roughly 90 percent of the population in Nassau County operates under an active wastewater treatment system through connections to sewage plants. But in Suffolk County, there are more than 360,000 individual cesspools and septic systems — representing more unsewered homes than in the entire state of New Jersey — that are more likely to release nitrogen into the ground and surface water.

Scully said the county would be workshopping the proposal with civics and business and other stakeholders across Suffolk in order to perfect the proposition before putting it to a vote.

“If there are folks who are opposed to our proposal and don’t have one of their own, that means they’re not concerned about solving the problem,” he said. “We’re hoping we can get productive discussions.”

by -
0 588
Discharging homes’ wastewater into sewer systems could keep harmful substances out of our water supply. File photo

Our water supply is pooped.

Hundreds of thousands of homes in Suffolk County run on their own septic systems or cesspools, which leak nitrogen from waste into the soil and, thus, into our groundwater and other water sources. Elevated nitrogen levels are dangerous because they mess with our ecosystem — one effect is promoting algae growth, which decreases the water’s oxygen supply that fish and other creatures need to live and produces toxins and bacteria that are harmful to humans.

Sewers are a more convenient and modern technology for areas with populations at least as dense as Suffolk County. But, more importantly, sewer systems are also a crucial line of defense for our drinking water and the healthy waterways we treasure.

Legislators and community members complain all the time about how Suffolk needs to hook up more properties to sewer systems, but they also say there’s no money to do it. County Executive Steve Bellone’s proposal to charge an additional $1 per 1,000 gallons of water used — and to put those dollars into a special account dedicated to sewering Suffolk — could help.

The funds collected would be used in conjunction with other funding, such as from Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s $383 million initiative to support clean water infrastructure.

To put Bellone’s proposed surcharge into perspective, that’s $1 for every 50 days of showers for a family of four, based on average water usage numbers from the U.S. Geological Survey. It’s another $1 for roughly every 333 toilet flushes. Add $1 for every 40 loads of laundry in a newer model of washing machine.

For a single-person measurement, each person uses about 80-100 gallons of water each day, according to the federal agency. Those on the higher end of the spectrum, then, would be dishing out $1 every 10 days with the goal of a healthier environment — or just shy of $37 a year.

Reaching deeper into taxpayers’ pockets is not ideal, but there is simply no other way to produce sewer funding of the magnitude Suffolk County needs without asking the public to chip in somehow.

Bellone’s proposal needs state approval before the measure can go onto ballots in November for voters to weigh in. We hope our neighbors would support the surcharge.

Wastewater is handled at a sewage treatment plant on the North Shore. File photo by Susan Risoli

There’s something in the water — our own excrement.

Last week was national SepticSmart Week, an annual U.S. Environmental Protection Agency initiative created to teach people how to care for their septic systems. People should know how to maintain these waste systems to prevent their contents from seeping into the ground and into our drinking water aquifer, but it’s a shame that we are still at this point.

Suffolk County politicians frequently talk about their lofty goals to build sewer systems throughout our neighborhoods. In addition to better protecting surface and groundwater, sewers enable commercial and residential development, which is what we need to keep Long Island a viable community for future generations. But we rarely see progress toward the widespread sewer goal.

Part of the problem is the tremendous cost of “sewering up” all of our homes and businesses. However, it’s better to start paying now than when we are in the throes of another recession and desperately need sewers in order to attract business and keep the economy chugging along; or when we wake up one morning to find our water supply irreparably saturated with human waste particles.

Although there are admirable government initiatives to reduce nitrogen pollution, sewers are the ultimate solution. Maybe our electeds are hesitant to be the hated ones handing taxpayers a large bill for the projects, but someone’s got to do it.

Until our elected officials start taking real action, there are things we can do to help spare our drinking water, such as investing our own money in our septic systems, upgrading them to more environmentally friendly ones and safely cleaning them out more frequently to prevent overflowing.

According to Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone’s office, there are 360,000 county lots with septic systems and cesspools that add nitrogen pollution to our communities. If even 10 percent of those lot owners upgraded their septic systems, it could make a world of difference.