Critically high levels of nitrogen in ground and surface waters is impacting the region's drinking water, recreational waterways and reducing wetlands, which act as Long Island’s last line of natural defense against disasters such as Superstorm Sandy, Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone said Thursday.
“I consider water quality and its impact on public health and safety to be the most important priority of my administration," Bellone said. "Today, begins a sustained campaign to inform Suffolk County residents about the scope of this problem and to work with the scientific, environmental and business community, as well as my colleagues on all levels of government to identify and fund solutions.”
Bellone said the cost of solving the water pollution problem has seemed an insurmountable obstacle with 70 percent of Suffolk County without sewers, but the county executive said it must be addressed.
Bellone directed the Departments of Health, Public Works and Economic Development to develop criteria that identifies the most critical parcels contributing to the decline of our water quality. With information culled from criteria used, the county will be able to prioritize parcels within proximity to streams, rivers and other bodies of water.
“The report issued today highlights the reality that we are at a critical moment in the health of our water resources and for the continued viability of Long Island as a region," said Legis. Kara Hahn, the chairwoman of the Legislative Committee on Environment, Planning and Agriculture.
“We won’t allow aging septic tanks and rising sea levels to destroy our way of life," Hahn added. "We must act now with utmost urgency to address the critical issue necessary to sustain Suffolk’s water for future generations. It's been 30 years since the last water quality report was issued in 1987 and we don't have 30 years to get this right. We have to turn this around now.”
Suffolk County Water Authority Chairman James Gaughran said the "very modest" water bills that residents currently pay "could very well become astronomical in the future if we do not turn the tide on the degradation of our aquifer system.”