County exec candidates talk water-quality plans

Romaine (R) vs. Calone (D)


After the Suffolk County Legislature voted to recess, the Suffolk County Clean Water Plan will not appear on the 2023 general election ballot in November.

The Long Island Advance took the opportunity to interview the Suffolk County executive candidates who will appear on the ballot, after Steve Bellone is term-limited this year, and get their thoughts and plans for clean water in Suffolk County.

Current Brookhaven Town supervisor Ed Romaine will be running on the Republican line against former federal and state prosecutor Dave Calone, who will run on the Democratic line.


How will you get Suffolk County’s water quality to where it needs to be?

“I think the water quality has been going downhill for years. I am gravely concerned about water quality and water quantity. That’s become an ever-bigger issue,” Romaine said.

He said he has already begun meeting with the Suffolk County Water Authority to urge water conservation. His plan includes using grey water from sewage treatment plants to recharge the aquifer and help fertilize land, including county golf courses. Specifically, he said, this can be done in Port Jefferson at the golf course. It is already being done in Riverhead.

“It’s something very doable. The grey water is almost drinkable, but not quite, and it can help recharge the aquifer. It’s important we do that,” he added.

What are your plans for the failed legislation?

Romaine explained that he understood why the legislation did not pass, even though he supported it. The money intended for sewering would have been allocated for alternative systems. If elected, he said, he plans to work with the legislature to formulate a plan that passes as close to unanimous as possible.

“I will work with the legislature to form a consensus that flies through,” he promised. “We will work together, and we will have a clean-water plan.”

He also suggested instead of reaching for a tax increase, which he said hurts those with lower incomes, he would seek existing federal dollars (infrastructure grants) to fund the plan. If that is not possible, or requires supplemental funding, then he would consider the tax increase, however minimal that might be.

“We can’t tax anymore; people are leaving,” he said. If a tax increase is not required, he added, a vote will not even be necessary to provide cleaner water.

What makes you the best candidate for this job?

In 1986, during his time as a Suffolk County legislator, he said, he sponsored and passed the county’s first clean-water bill. Also, as the director for housing and community development, he said, he aided in installing new water mains to several homes with water contamination.

“I have a history of advocating for clean water,” he said, also noting his track record preserving the Carmans River watershed as part of the core Pine Barrens.

“I am not interested in an agenda. As county executive, I will move this county forward. I will propose sweeping legislation that will help clean our waters over the long run,” he added.

Overall, what are your plans and thoughts for our environment and protecting it?

Romaine said if elected, he plans to get the county involved in solid waste. To do so, he said he will set up a panel for a countywide solid-waste management plan.

“Our landfill is closing. We have to do something to get zero waste. We may not get there, but that is the goal we should set,” he added.

He also suggested demanding for a bigger, better bottle bill and waste determination for better use of glass in the production of concrete—as well as the use of ash for asphalt. He also hopes to promote product responsibility to enforce smaller and more reusable packaging for better recycling. Lastly, he said, he wants to offer compost barrels to homeowners and grants to help residents in the direction of zero waste.


How do you feel about the legislation being left off the ballot for voters to approve or not approve?

“I am infuriated that the Republican-led legislature put politics ahead of public health and denied voters the ability to vote on a clean-water referendum, which was crafted on a bipartisan basis by our region’s top labor, environmental, and civic leaders,” Calone said. “But make no mistake—clean water is on the ballot this November.”

If elected as county executive, he promised to make clean water a priority as a referendum before the voters.

“I trust the voters, and I believe that clean water is the lifeblood of our economy and crucial to the health of our families. We should be able to agree: clean water must not be a partisan issue,” he added.

What makes you qualified or the best candidate for this job?

Calone said he has the experience to work across party lines to protect clean water and a proven record of delivering results.

“I am a business leader and prosecutor who focuses on problem solving. Specifically, I have been a leader in our county’s water-quality efforts for the past decade and have an action plan to protect our water going forward,” he said.
Calone noted that he has worked with county executive Steve Bellone and key stakeholders hosting a tele-town hall to kick off the county’s Reclaim Our Waters initiative several years ago. He also said he has led the county’s wastewater finance task force, and helped draft the most recent bipartisan ballot initiative.

What are your plans for the failed legislation? How will you get Suffolk County’s water quality to where it needs to be? 

“Our water is the lifeblood of our economy and crucial to our health,” Calone said.

In order to protect both drinking and surface waters, he said, he will invest in unifying the sewer districts and increasing the capacity of existing sewer systems while increasing the usage of nitrogen-reducing septic systems so that there is clean-water protection in all of our most vulnerable places.

“This legislation did that by making Suffolk eligible for billions of dollars in federal and state investments,” he added. “After Republican leaders failed this year, I will make it my priority to put this bipartisan referendum before the voters as soon as possible.”

Overall, what are your plans and thoughts for our environment and protecting it?

“Protecting our environment is crucial to protecting our safety, economy, and way of life in Suffolk County,” he continued. “To move forward as a region, we need clean water, to fight climate change, to execute a regional plan for our garbage, and much more. I have the broadest set of experiences in fighting for our environment of any county executive candidate ever—having worked on the issue as a prosecutor, in the business sector, and in leadership roles within Suffolk County government—and I am ready to lead as county executive.”

Voters can read more about both Romaine and Calone’s platforms online at: and, respectively.


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