Featured Letter: Simply sewering isn’t the answer

A sandbar at the end of Pine Neck Road in Southold. (Credit: Barbaraellen Koch)
A sandbar at the end of Pine Neck Road in Southold. (Credit: Barbaraellen Koch)

To the Editor:

In his guest spot, Suffolk County Executive Bellone showed good reason why people don’t trust government.

He couldn’t even get the basic numbers right.

In eastern Suffolk, about 40 pollution of nitrogen pollution is from homes, about 40 percent is from agricultural operations and about 20 percent is from the atmosphere. Even by averaging these numbers with western Suffolk, you cannot approach Mr. Bellone’s claim that 70 percent of nitrogen pollution comes from homes with septic systems.

If sewering “solves” the nitrogen pollution issue, then why are all of the bodies of water around Nassau County, which is over 90 percent sewered, some of the worse-polluted waters on Long Island? It’s because most of the municipal waste water treatment plants dump their effluent directly into our streams, inlets and bays. And except for Bergen Point, that’s true in Suffolk, too. By putting more nitrogen into sewers, the resulting effluent pumped into our surrounding waters can dramatically increase the amount of nitrogen, further harming our wetlands, our fisheries and the very ecosystems we are trying to protect.

Yes, there are locations along the waterfront that need to be addressed quickly. But we also need to get the numbers right, do the science and be sure about what we speak before we rush to a solution fraught with other dangers.

Sewering, done improperly, can greatly increase our land use and water woes, promoting densities of populations we cannot support. Sewering should be discussed in context with our need to preserve open space, to provide a mix of housing types to meet the needs and tastes of all residents across all income levels, to manage our water resources, to address growing traffic problems and, most importantly, the need to both restore and preserve our quality of life. It’s all connected.

Mr. Bellone is right on one thing: the solution needs to be a truly collaborative effort, across all levels of government and by working with scientists, civic groups, environmental organizations and businesses. It’s the civic duty of all Suffolk County residents to hold Mr. Bellone to that pledge.

Bill Toedter

President, North Fork Environmental Council

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