Keeping our waterways and drinking water clean is a critically important issue for ourselves, our children, and their children’s children. Residents should be allowed to vote this November on whether they want to invest in this effort.
Professor Christopher Gobler from SUNY School of Maritime and Atmospheric Sciences says 75% of the nitrogen in our waterways comes from wastewater from outdated sewage and septic systems. Nitrogen pollutes our waterways and leaches into the land to pollute our groundwater aquifers. Nitrogen causes harmful algae blooms and dangerous toxins, affecting marine life and the quality of life by closing beaches and fishing. It threatens our health. It affects commerce – fishing, shell fishing, tourism, and recreation on the waterways and waterfronts. County surface waters are about 7% of the economy annually. Nitrogen pollution in our local waterways must be reduced.
We need to manage our sewers and replace our septic systems. It is expected to take decades to convert our 380,000 septic systems on LI. Funding can speed up that process by offsetting the cost of the septic systems to the resident. We cannot put the financial burden on the residents to upgrade these systems.
NYS offers us funding, but the county must provide a 25 % matching contribution. A 1/8% increase in sales tax will provide a matching contribution and an ongoing source of revenue. It is a long-term plan, and it will take decades to upgrade the sewers and install and maintain the nitrogen-reducing septic systems.
The Countywide Wastewater Management District (CWMD) is proposed as the administrative structure required to implement the Suffolk County Clean Water Plan. It is also where we look for the appropriate financial controls and transparency.
If we don’t take significant steps now to reduce the pollution of our waterways and aquifer, we may lose the New York State contribution, and we will all suffer the consequences.
Therefore, the voters must decide if they want a 1/8% tax increase to protect our waterways and aquifers. This is critical to the future of Long Island. The League of Women Voters supports putting this on the ballot this November.