Beth Wahl has been in this fight for a long time.
“I personally have been fighting for 20 years to get sewers,” Wahl said. “We as a community absolutely must keep the pressure on.”
The Save Our Sewers rally was a chance for Wahl and many other local leaders to keep the pressure on county officials to finally break ground on the Forge River Sewer District.
Earlier this year, three of the project components went out to bid for Phases 1 and 2. The bids came back much higher than expected, which the county legislature said was due to COVID. However, some leaders such as Brookhaven Town supervisor Ed Romaine, said it made sense the bids came back much higher than anticipated because the estimated costs were done back in 2013.
“This project needs to get under way,” Romaine said. “Because they waited so long, their estimated cost has gone through the roof.”
The day before the rally, Suffolk County executive Steve Bellone announced he was going to use over $40 million in money from the American Rescue Plan to restore funding to the sewer project. Despite the announcement, the SOS rally was still held to put pressure and be visible to the county legislature that the community will not stop until the sewers break ground.
“A lot of time has gone under the bridge and we haven’t seen action,” Romaine said. “We should not be waiting any more. You have the bids. You have the money. This project needs to get underway.”
Maura Spery, board of director chair for the Mastic Beach Conservancy, said the issue was so important that a planned cleanup with the group was postponed a day in order to attend the rally.
“We used to be one of the main producers of shellfish in this entire nation,” Spery said. “Now, we supply zero. Why? Because we’ve ruined our bays, our creeks. This doesn’t just save us; this saves our environment. Who wants to live if it’s going to stink like a cesspool down there?”
Wahl’s closing remarks emphasized the seriousness of the issue.
“This is the most important issue our community has ever been involved in,” Wahl said.