Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone and new legislator Al Krupski partnered on legislation passed Tuesday appropriating $90,000 from the Water Quality Protection and Restoration Program to fund a pilot study of clustered wastewater treatment alternatives for the Peconic Estuary Watershed.
The study will determine the viability of clustered treatment of decentralized wastewater in the watershed area. The Peconic Estuary Watershed, which begins at the headwaters of the Peconic River and extends east, drains into the bays between the North and South Forks and extends to portions of five towns, including Brookhaven, Riverhead, Southampton, East Hampton, Southold and Shelter Island.
“During the last decade, a great deal has been done to protect the estuary, one of the great environmental treasures of the East End, including sewage plant upgrades, storm water abatement and wetlands restoration,” Legis. Krupski said in a statement. “But more needs to be done, especially in the area of wastewater treatment. This pilot study will provide information that will help Suffolk County and local municipalities make informed decisions about the implementation and potential benefits of clustered wastewater treatment systems in existing communities located within the Peconic Estuary.”
Clustering enables several residential units to connect to a common wastewater treatment system, which allows for the utilization of more innovative systems and offers potential cost advantages, as well as environmental benefits. The pilot will execute the planning and preliminary design of pilot projects for clustered wastewater treatment in existing communities, with a goal of reducing nitrogen loading in the estuary that leaches into groundwater and migrates to surface water bodies.
The study will be conducted by Peconic Green Growth, a not-for-profit organization, under the direction of the Department of Economic Development and Planning, Division of Environmental Planning. Peconic Green Growth submitted a grant application as a result of a call for submissions and was one of nine projects chosen by the Water Quality Protection and Restoration Program Review Committee to receive grants.
For years, environmental advocates like Kevin McAllister of the Peconic Baykeeper association have pushed for alternatives to aging residential cesspool systems. County Executive Bellone sais he agreed that evidence suggests a link between onsite individual residential wastewater treatment systems and water quality within the estuary.
“Many older coastal communities still rely on cesspools and onsite septic wastewater treatment,” Bellone said in a statement. “This pilot study is an essential step in an ongoing process to protect the estuary and Suffolk water quality for future generations by identifying the most viable wastewater treatment alternatives for the many structures that already exist within the watershed area.”