$226,000 to Target Watershed, Worst Contributing Areas of Nitrogen Identified
The Suffolk County Legislature took a historic step forward on Tuesday, August 21 when it approved Introductory Resolution 1758-12, sponsored by Legislator Kate Browning (WF-Shirley), which appropriates $226,000 in order to expand the scope of the ongoing sewer district project for Mastic/Shirley. The funding will be used to include critical residential areas in the Forge River watershed. Legislator Kate Browning gathered on the banks of the Forge River today with County Executive Steve Bellone, Assemblyman Fred Thiele, Senator Lee Zeldin, Senator Ken LaValle, Legislator Edward Romaine, NYS DEC Regional Director Peter Scully and Chairman of the Forge River Task Force, Adrienne Esposito of Citizens Campaign for the Environment, as well as civic leaders from the Mastic, Shirley and Mastic Beach communities to announce the expansion of the proposed sewer district boundaries.
For over 40 years the communities of Mastic, Shirley and Mastic Beach have been advocating for a sewer district to spur economic development and protect ground water. These efforts became even more critical when the Forge River was listed as a New York State impaired waterway in 2006. A task force was formed to address the problems impacting the ailing waterway, and for that last seven years the Town of Brookhaven, Suffolk County, New York State and the federal government have analyzed and studied the causes of the river’s ailments. All levels of government agree that the major source of nitrogen to the river is failing septic systems and cesspools within the Forge River watershed. The Town of Brookhaven produced the Forge River Watershed Management Plan in March 2012, which identified the sub-watershed areas that are contributing the most nitrogen to the river. The plan also recognized and reinforced the position that a sewer district for the surrounding areas would be the most effective long-term plan to reduce nitrogen loading in the river.
“All levels of government have been working collaboratively to remedy the problems plaguing the Forge River, and Suffolk County has taken the lead role in creating the necessary sewer district to bring long-term relief by reducing this unsustainable nitrogen load. These expanded boundaries are a historic step towards restoring the Forger River for generations to come,” stated Legislator Browning.
“As sponsor of Suffolk County’s Sewering Master Plan and Chair of Suffolk County’s Wastewater Task Force I recognize the Shirley/Mastic area is environmentally sensitive and must be protected in order to save the Forge River which is threatened by elevated levels of nitrogen,” stated Deputy Presiding Officer Wayne R. Horsley. “Sewering this area will go a long way to preserving one of Suffolk County’s most valuable natural resources.”
“It has become very clear that one of the biggest challenges we face in protecting the Forge is finding a way to mitigate impacts that septic systems are having on the groundwater that finds its way into the river,” said Peter A. Scully, Regional Director of the NYS Department of Environmental Conservation, and Chair of the Forge River Protection Task Force. “Today’s announcement marks an important and historic first step toward evaluation of a possible long-term plan to meet this challenge.”
In 2008 Legislator Browning directed the Department of Public Works (DPW) to conduct a feasibility study for sewering the Mastic/Shirley peninsula, which is the first step in creating a sewer district. In January 2009 DPW completed the study and Legislator Browning moved forward with the creation of Maps and Plans for the creation of a Mastic/Shirley sewer district. Based on this directive DPW released the proposed district boundaries and treatment plant locations in December 2009. Since then the county has been progressing with a cost benefit analysis of sewer capacity, demand, and alternative solutions (Capital Project 8189) for the Mastic/Shirley sewer district. A stakeholders meeting earlier this year with the consultant for the project resulted in community concerns regarding the lack of critical areas of the Forge River watershed being included in the proposed district boundaries. In response, Legislator Browning introduced IR 1758-12 to fund the expanded scope needed to include these boundaries.
“By providing funding to expand the boundaries of the Mastic/Shirley sewer district we are going to be able to garner the pertinent information needed to help strengthen the case for sewering in the Forge River Watershed area thereby availing the project to much needed state and federal resources,” stated County Executive Steve Bellone.
“This additional funding is a critical step towards eliminating the major source of pollution in the Forge River,” stated New York State Assemblyman Fred W. Thiele, Jr. “By expanding the proposed Mastic/Shirley sewer district study area, we have the chance to replace out-dated, ineffective sanitary septic systems in known nutrient sensitive areas and areas with high groundwater tables. This not only will minimize nutrient loadings to groundwater and groundwater-fed surface waters, but will also benefit the species which thrive in the Forge River ecosystem. I applaud Legislator Browning and Suffolk County for their continued dedication to restoring the Forge River.”
“The best and most lasting answer to restoring the Forge River is to establish sewer infrastructure,” said Adrienne Esposito, Executive Director of Citizens Campaign for the Environment. “Recent studies verify high levels of nutrients coming from cesspools and septic systems of residential communities are degrading the Forge River. This wastewater challenge must be addressed so that the beauty and health of the river can once again be reestablished. Kudos to County Legislator Browning for advancing the expansion of the county’s study to include the areas of the watershed that are the main sources of nitrogen.”
The expanded boundaries will focus on the West Mill Pond, Upper Forge West, Wills Creek and Poospatuck Creek sub-watersheds. The Town of Brookhaven’s Forge River Watershed Management Plan recognized these areas as the most critical to be sewered. In addition, the inclusion of residential areas along the Forge River greatly enhances Suffolk County’s ability to receive funding from the New York State Environmental Facilities Corporation (EFC), which provides low interest loans for sewer projects across New York State. The EFC scores projects in order to prioritize and rank them. The Mastic/Shirley sewer district currently scores a 24, but with the expanded scope the project will have its score raised to 86.
“Expanding these boundaries is another important step in getting this project underway,” said State Senator Lee Zeldin (R, C, I- Shirley). “Multiple levels of government have a role in working together to pursue funding options. Investing in our community’s infrastructure will bring much needed jobs to the Tri-Hamlet community while also protecting our environment.”
“I applaud Legislator Kate Browning for expanding the sewer study to include residential areas within the Forge River watershed,” stated Ray Keenan, President of the Manor Park Civic Association. “We know that waste from residential properties poses one of the greatest threats to our waterways. A plan adequately addressing that impact, with proper siting of a treatment plant, enhances our groundwater quality immediately and offers the prospect of a healthy Forge River.”
“The future of the Forge River is critical,” stated Senator Ken LaValle. “Efforts to sewer the watershed are the most important to cleaning up the river for future generations.”
The additional work will take several months and Suffolk County will be prepared to move forward with the design phase in 2013. Legislator Browning has secured $1.9 million, $900,000 of which has already been appropriated, to complete the Mastic/Shirley sewer district engineering and design.