A New Plan to Address Long Island’s Nitrogen Crisis

The first identified financing mechanism to replace the failing septic systems that are causing nitrogen overload.

This week, NYLCV met with with Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone and other representatives at Southaven County Park to discuss one of the best proposed solutions to help mitigate Long Island’s growing nitrogen pollution problem.  In order to combat aging infrastructure and the concerns of future nitrogen pollution, there has been legislation drafted, that if passed through the voting process, will be a water quality protection fee.

This surcharge is going to serve as a user fee – not a tax, so the less water used, the lower the fee, and vice versa. The fee, which would not be implemented until 2018, serves to directly reinvest the money into the needed infrastructure improvements residents and county executives have been calling for.  Over 360,000 homes contribute to over 70% of the nitrogen pollution we see in Suffolk County.  Improvements in infrastructure call for connecting homes using septic systems or cesspools to sewer lines, or upgrading the current storage system they have if a sewer is unavailable.

When breaking down the cost, studies show that this is not going to be a burden.  This plan is that it will only cost residents an average of $73 per household, per year, with the rate being a $1.00 fee for every 1,000 gallons of water used.  Add that to the current  $1.81 water rate, and you will still see Long Island coming in at about half of the nation’s $5.05 water rate – which does not include the type of water quality protection being proposed here in Long Island.

Given that water rates are so low, this increase is anticipated to raise awareness of excessive water use in households, promoting a transition in water-saving measures either through controlling behaviors or upgrading appliances.
In determining whether or not this water quality protection fee would be successful, Bellone stated “Are we going to be a place that protects water quality or not?  That is the question before us. Right now, that question is in the hands of politicians. I’m much more comfortable putting the question in the hands of the people.” (Newsday).