Southold Town may soon be one major stride closer toward protecting its waterways.
At Tuesday's work session, Town Engineer Michael Collins said he had had a "productive meeting" with Glynnis Berry of Peconic Green Growth. Berry, he said, had secured funding to explore the idea of decentralized wastewater treatment for the Long Island Sound and the Peconic Bay.
The best location for the proposed system, Collins said, would be Fishers Island, because infrastructure and extra land in a leaching field already exists.
A "bonus," Colllins said, would be the possibility of constructed wetlands.
The project would be the first to be constructed in Suffolk County and has been embraced by the Suffolk County Health Department; the SCHD has agreed to provide funding, he said.
"It's huge to get the health department onboard," Southold Town Councilwoman Louisa Evans said.
A meeting will be set up to inspect the parcel, Collins said.
The initial concept design will be covered by a grant, Collins said; the possiblity of applying to Suffolk County for a grant for the next phase exists.
Collins said the project is "too premature," for a cost to be estimated.
Berry said Fishers Island currently has an an existing sewer district with a large septic system; her company, she said, has been asked to look at additional treatment to purify the wastewater before it goes back into the groundwater.
At the same time, Berry said, she has received a grant for a survey, planning study and mapping conditions; wastewater and groundwater have been identified as an issue.
Berry she is aiming to find three sites on the Long Island Sound watershed and three in the Peconic Bay Estuary. Once located, Berry said her goals is to help the community with the next step of garnering approvals.
Decentralized wastewater treatment has benefits, Berry said. "One big issue is excess nutrient loading." The new system, she said, would be required to have nitrogen levels of 10 milligrams per liter, compared to the current onsite system that has nitrogen levels of 40 to 60 milligrams per liter exiting the system.
"We could see a 75 to 90 percent improvement," Berry said. "That's a huge improvement."
In addition, she said, the water quality is clearer and better processed.
And, Berry added, decentralized wastewater treatment is not as intrusive. "A new sewer system is expensive and invasive," she said.
Whatever is installed, Berry said, can be easily expanded.
Treatment locations can even include sites such as greenhouses, she said. "The systems are not as incompatible with existing land use."
Residents who would like to participate in a survey about the issue can click here.