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Posted on: September 11, 2020

Lawmakers Throw Support Behind Opportunity to Create Fire Island Wastewater Treatment Plan

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HAUPPAUGE, N.Y. – Suffolk County lawmakers on Wednesday opened the door to a funding opportunity for developing a wastewater treatment plan on Fire Island.

Legislators on Sept. 9 unanimously approved legislation co-sponsored by Suffolk County Legislature Presiding Officer Rob Calarco and sponsored by Legislator Steven Flotteron to authorize the county to welcome applications for funding to create a comprehensive wastewater management plan on Fire Island, where nitrogen from wastewater has been identified by the Department of Environmental Conservation as the leading cause of water quality degradation.

“Although the county has been actively pursuing ways to reduce nitrogen pollution across the county by expanding sewage treatment facilities and encouraging the use of innovative alternative wastewater treatment systems, there is not yet a comprehensive plan for wastewater treatment on Fire Island,” said Presiding Officer Calarco. “I was happy to co-sponsor this legislation with Legislator Flotteron to ensure that we protect the water supply on Fire Island for those who live there year-round and for the more than 2 million people who visit every year.”

The legislation authorizes the county’s Water Quality Protection and Restoration Program Committee, which approves grant funding for projects that improve water quality, to issue a call for applications related to wastewater management in the Fire Island portion of the South Shore Estuary Reserve Subwatershed. The committee will reconvene to consider the submissions, and approved submissions will be prioritized for funding when money becomes available.

The Coalition for Fire Island Waste Water Solutions, a group that includes government officials and environmental protection agencies, has been exploring ways to reduce nitrogen in Fire Island’s wastewater and is looking to develop a plan.

“I am proud to have co-chaired over the Coalition for Fire Island Waste Water Solutions Committee, along with Adrienne Esposito of Citizens Campaign for the Environment, for the past two years while successfully working with all levels of government from village, town, county, state and federal. We successfully came together as a cohesive working group and have unanimously agreed that we need a plan for all involved in order to deal with our wastewater problem and help to save the Great South Bay and Fire Island communities,” said Legislator Flotteron.

“Thanks to the efforts of Presiding Officer Calarco and Legislator Flotteron, there is now an opportunity for funding a much-needed wastewater management plan for Fire Island. Over the past two years, a coalition of Fire Island communities, environmental organizations and local government officials have been exploring ways to reduce the flow of nitrogen from wastewater into our groundwater and the Great South Bay. This resolution would have the County’s Water Quality Protection and Restoration Committee review our application for funding to design a comprehensive plan for dealing with wastewater issues that takes into account the island’s unique geographic characteristics and legacy development patterns,” added Suzy Goldhirsch, president of the Fire Island Association.

A popular summer destination, Fire Island welcomes more than 2.2 million visitors each year and has complex needs. In addition to having a delicate environmental system and unique geography, the barrier island is home to several governing jurisdictions and many stakeholders.

“Fire Island is an immensely beautiful and unique place, but it faces some challenging water quality issues. Fire Island’s array of government jurisdictions, lack of vehicle access, and summer population spike make tackling Fire Island’s wastewater treatment needs a complex problem, however, it’s a problem we can and will solve. Thank you to Suffolk County Legislators Calarco and Flotteron for championing this critical bill to fund a Fire Island wastewater solutions study. This study will provide a wholistic plan to manage and treat wastewater from this dynamic barrier island. This is a big step on the path to protecting Fire Island’s waterways and keeping this treasured island sustainable,” said Adrienne Esposito, executive director of Citizens Campaign for the Environment.   

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