Elected officials from the state, county and town, along with representatives of environmental organizations, gathered on the lawn of Sylvester Manor September 23 for a ground breaking of a state-of-the art wastewater treatment system.
The “clean water system,” developed by Natural Systems Utilities (NSU) headquartered in Hillsborough, New Jersey, is unique to Suffolk County. It will be operational by April 2017, according to Sara Gordon, the Manor’s director of planning and development.
It’s hoped that 90 percent of the nitrogen in wastewater produced by the Manor will be eliminated by the new system. It uses natural processes to remove contaminants before wastewater can be released, with no harm to the environment, according to NSU.
As for cost, Ms. Gordon told the Reporter that “as a first adopter, the Manor has borne extraordinary costs” that won’t be the same in subsequent applications for clean water systems. The estimated price tag of the project is in the $425,000 range, with the clean water system costing $150,000 and the rest going to “temporary structures, design, engineering, architects, legal fess landscaping, fixtures, monitoring maintenance” and other costs, Ms. Gordon said.
The county has committed $209,000 for the system and other related structural work, and the State Community Capital Assistance Program has come up with $80,000. Ms. Gordon noted that Assemblyman Fred Thiele Jr. (I-Sag Harbor), who represents the Island, secured $125,000 in state funds for the project. The remaining costs, Ms. Gordon said, will be paid by private contributions.
Speaker after speaker at the ceremony noted that the East End’s ground and surface waters are in crisis from nitrogen overload, due to some extent from fertilizer runoff, but mainly from antiquated septic systems — more than 360,000 in Suffolk County, according to the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation.
Among the environmental organizations involved with the Manor project are the Group for the East End, Peconic Green Growth and the New York State Center for Clean Water Technology.
Supervisor Jim Dougherty told the gathering that restoring Island waterways and protecting the aquifer is “a major challenge, here and now.”
Mr. Dougherty noted that, with the guidance of Town Engineer John Cronin, there is a new septic system being installed at the American Legion Hall, which will also service the school, proving Shelter Island is taking water pollution seriously. Ms. Gordon also praised Mr. Cronin, for “leading the charge” on the Island for improved wastewater removal systems.
The Manor’s new system, Assemblyman Thiele said, “will be a beacon to other communities” to look to solve problems in future.
County Legislator Bridget Fleming (D-Noyac) said that she and others “are committed at the county level” to continue to push “for projects like this.”
All the elected officials and environmentalists urged passage of the proposition on the ballot November 8 to extend the Community Preservation Fund — an account supported by taxes on real estate sales used to purchase open space — until 2050 and that will allow each East End town to use up to 20 percent of their annual collection for clean water projects.
Alison Branco, director of the Peconic Estuary Program, said Sylvester Manor was the “perfect place” for a new clean water system, since one of the roles of the Manor is educational, and it will “show people how it’s done and it’s doable.”