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Councilmen seek action on septic programs

Town Engineer John Cronin’s call for action sounded— again — to the Town Board to address septic issues affecting water, particularly in the Center.

His words came from Councilmen Paul Shepherd and Jim Colligan at the March 12 Town Board work session. They noted that while the new septic system planned for the Legion Post/Youth Center is pushing ahead, the link to Shelter Island School has been slowed.

School officials attribute the problem to changes in top posts during the past two years, with a new superintendent and new business leader.

The original plans called for linking the Legion Post/Youth Center with the lines to the school, which would serve about one-third of that building. But the need to expand the school project by adding another upgraded septic system to serve the other two-thirds of the building is critical, Mr. Colligan said.

The two buildings in the Center are large contributors to the increased nitrogen showing up in Center drinking water.

Mr. Shepherd questioned the roadblocks on the school’s part of the project and offered his colleagues a memo of points on what needs to be done. That memo wasn’t made public.

Nitrogen content in drinking water is a problem in many parts of the Island, but the Center, because of the amount of activity in the area, has been identified as the most urgent area where upgraded septic systems are needed. “It should be a high priority for this town,” Mr. Colligan said.

The town needs to make efforts to expedite the project at the Legion Post and the school, Mr. Dickson said.

In January, Mr. Cronin and his former student intern, Andre Oraseanu, told the Town Board nitrogen levels were worsening and, while it might take another 50 years before most of the Island would find its water not potable, efforts to address the issue had to start now.

Mr. Cronin offered a 17-point Pure Water Action Plan that has yet to gain traction.

At the same time as the Town Board is trying to get a program moving, Councilwoman Amber Brach-Williams said the Water Quality Improvement Projects Advisory Board is struggling getting more individual property owners to upgrade their systems; a number of those who applied for and were given local grants aren’t pushing forward because of ancillary costs to a project that wouldn’t be covered by the money.

Among the issues is money to re-landscape areas that would be disturbed by installation of the I/A nitrogen reducing systems, Ms. Brach-Williams said.

The town has set aside $480,000 in grants, but only spent $24,660 so far.

The money set aside for approved grants was also figured at $15,000 per grant. However grant money being paid by Suffolk County and this year, New York State, will kick in first. So, for those who get the local grants, it’s likely few if any would be for the full $15,000 amount.

A waste water expert with Suffolk County, Justin Jobin, will be at the Shelter Island Town Board work session on Tuesday, March 26, at 1 p.m. to talk about the region’s nitrogen pollution crisis and to provide information on the new state money that is being made available to those installing the I/A systems. The county will be administering both the state and county grant money.