2014, A Year for Major Progress in Dealing with Longstanding Water-Quality Problems in Suffolk County
December 29, 2014
by Mike Clifford
NEW YORK – A drumbeat of news coverage concerning Long Island Water Quality was a major factor, local advocates say, in getting much needed action on the issue. Carl LoBue, senior marine scientist with the Nature Conservancy on Long Island, says 2014 was the first year Long Islanders got weekly water-quality reports on bays and harbors around the island.
He says they used those updates, along with weather and traffic reports, to plan their weekend activities. But he says the water-quality reports had a more lasting impact, because they made the point that good water quality could not be taken for granted on Long Island.
“That really caught the attention of the county executive, which is why Suffolk County Executive Bellone called out nitrogen pollution from sewage and septic systems as the number one priority for his administration,” LoBue says.
LoBue says since that pledge, made at the start of the year, major progress has been made in laying the groundwork for dealing with longstanding water-quality problems in Suffolk County.
LoBue also credits Governor Andrew Cuomo’s Long Island Water Quality and Coastal Resilience Task Force with getting much-needed public input and major funding to help all of Long Island.
“That culminated in roughly a billion dollars of infrastructure investment in Nassau and Suffolk County to upgrade and expand its sewer system,” says LoBue. “Something that we hope will be a down payment on the rest of the projects that are needed moving forward.”
Voters also did their part in 2014. LoBue says more than six in 10 voted in favor of a November ballot measure that forces Suffolk County to return water-quality funds that were raided during the budget process.
“Return roughly $30 million to a dedicated water-quality protection fund in Suffolk County and would require a referendum for any future changes to that fund moving forward,” he says.
Finally, LoBue says consultants from the IBM “Smarter Cities Program” have provided a road map that, if followed, should improve water management in Suffolk County in 2015 and beyond.
Advocates say weekly water-quality reports produced action and major funding to attack problems such as this algae bloom in East Hampton. Credit: M. Lindberg of TNC
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