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Local Governments Address Septic Problems

Outreach campaign to raise public awareness of onsite wastewater treatment systems

The Long Island Regional Economic Development Council joined the Town of Oyster Bay on May 30 to announce the kickoff of an educational outreach campaign for Coordinated Environmental Solutions for Septic Problems Occurring on Long Island (C.E.S.S.P.O.O.L. Project), which is being supported by a $45,000 award the town received as part of Governor Andrew M. Cuomo’s Regional Council initiative. This project will increase regional public awareness of onsite water treatment systems and water quality on Long Island and has the potential to create employment opportunities in the cesspool service industry.

“Wastewater treatment is not often thought of when it comes to economic development. However, without safe water the quality of life in an area declines and businesses suffer, which makes projects like this vital to our economy,” said Kevin Law, president of the Long Island Association and Regional Council co-chair. “There is no greater tool than knowledge, and I am proud that the council is supporting this educational campaign to help Long Islanders understand how they can do their part to protect their environment and well-being to ensure a bright and prosperous future.”

“This project is a great example of the type of partnerships the Regional Council has fostered to help improve the quality of life for our communities,” said Stuart Rabinowitz, president of Hofstra University and Regional Council co-chair. “Simply put – we need safe water. This awareness campaign will teach Long Islanders how to be conscious of how our actions affect the environment and our neighbors, and protect our water for generations to come.”

The C.E.S.S.P.O.O.L project will raise awareness of onsite wastewater treatment systems through an educational outreach campaign. The Town of Oyster Bay, Friends of the Bay and watershed protection committees for Manhasset Bay, Hempstead Harbor, and Oyster Bay/Cold Spring Harbor will raise public awareness of the importance of regularly inspecting, maintaining, and repairing/upgrading residential onsite wastewater treatment systems within the watersheds of the three embayments. The project will be implemented in four phases and will result in an increased regional awareness of the need for regular, routine maintenance of onsite wastewater treatment systems with the goal of increasing routine maintenance of such systems.

“Proper wastewater treatment is an important topic that needs to be addressed by all levels of government regionally and cooperatively. The issues we have in Glen Cove at Crescent Beach were decades in the making, but may have been prevented if we had public awareness campaigns like this to educate our friends and neighbors about how we contribute to the problem and how we can all make a difference,” said Glen Cove Mayor Ralph Suozzi. “Our water and waterways are too precious of a resource to be left to chance, and by properly treating wastewater we can improve the quality of life in our communities, create much-needed green jobs and foster water-related business related to fishing, tourism and recreational activities that will help grow our economy. I commend Governor Cuomo and the Regional Council for supporting this initiative and look forward to working with this new partnership to ensure that all Long Islanders enjoy a higher quality of life and have access to clean, quality water.”

“Septic systems have been found to be one of the major contributors to the contamination of fecal coliform bacteria and other pollutants to Long Island’s groundwaters, harbors, bays and waterways. Groundwater contamination is, consequently, of grave concern, as this contamination could enter the drinking supply through the aquifers. The short-term goals of the C.E.S.S.P.O.O.L. project are to raise public awareness of the importance of regularly inspecting, maintaining, and, as necessary, repairing/upgrading residential on-site sanitary systems within Nassau County and, consequently, creating jobs in the cesspool service industry,” said John Venditto, Oyster Bay town supervisor. “The long-term goals of the C.E.S.S.P.O.O.L. project are to reduce nutrient and contaminant loads to groundwater within the areas contributing to the county’s surface water, thereby reducing the non-point source loads to these surface waters. Protecting the quality of recharge in these areas will protect and improve surface water quality. The town is very gratified the state sees the worthiness of this project and looks forward to working with our partners in making the C.E.S.S.P.O.O.L. project a success.”

The Town of Oyster Bay proposes to serve as the lead agency for an unprecedented partnership between three Long Island watershed protection committees – Manhasset Bay, Hempstead Harbor, and Oyster Bay/Cold Spring Harbor, and Friends of The Bay –to implement the Coordinated Environmental Solutions for Septic Problems Occurring on Long Island – otherwise referred to as the C.E.S.S.P.O.O.L. project. The goals of the C.E.S.S.P.O.O.L. project are to raise public awareness of the importance of regularly inspecting, maintaining, and as necessary repairing/upgrading residential onsite sanitary systems within Nassau County and consequently creating jobs in the cesspool service industry.

The campaign will be implemented in four phases:

Phase I: Refining the target area. A detailed map highlighting all unsewered areas within Nassau County and Suffolk County (in the Cold Spring Harbor watershed) will be developed on a geographic information system by working with county health departments and local sewer districts.

Phase II: Establishing a baseline understanding of public awareness. In order to develop an efficient, effective campaign it is critical to gain an understanding of current public understanding of this issue.

Phase III: Creating and implementing a targeted, effective public action campaign. The C.E.S.S.P.O.O.L. project proposes to use the results of the survey to prepare a public outreach campaign that will educate, motivate and assist residents in maintaining their septic systems.

Phase IV: Monitoring, adjusting and evaluating. The effectiveness of the C.E.S.S.P.O.O.L. project’s public action campaign in obtaining its goals of increased maintenance of septic systems and increased business for related companies is designed to be easily monitored and adjusted to improve performance. This grant will provide direct indication of the number of residents that took action via redeemed coupons and increased business.

Last year, a total of $785 million was awarded through the Consolidated Funding Application (CFA) for job creation and community development projects consistent with each region’s strategic plans. As part of that process, the C.E.S.S.P.O.O.L project was awarded $45,000 from the Department of State Local Waterfront Revitalization Program.

Secretary of State Cesar A. Perales said, “Governor Cuomo’s transformational Regional Council Initiative to improve economic development in New York State has streamlined the application process for state resources and enabled local stakeholders to choose the projects they know will best help the region’s economy.  I am proud that the Department of State could be a part of this effort, and pleased that the Environmental Protection Fund Local Waterfront Revitalization Program awards will revitalize communities and waterfronts while also contribute to economic development throughout New York.”

The Department of State works in partnership with more than 300 communities across the state through the Local Waterfront Revitalization Program, from Sag Harbor on Long Island’s east end to Buffalo along Lake Erie to address numerous waterfront issues, such as economic development, protecting natural resources, and enhancing public access opportunities.

“With over 70 percent of the land area of the Manhasset Bay watershed un-sewered, the C.E.S.S.P.O.O.L. project is an important and critical component to improving water quality,” said Jennifer Wilson Pines, executive director of the Manhasset Bay Protection Committee. “We believe that homeowners with septic systems are mostly unaware of the impact an improperly maintained system can have on water quality. Those we’ve spoken with want to do the right thing; they just didn’t have the information to help     them readily available. The C.E.S.S.P.O.O.L. project will cover that knowledge gap.”

“The Oyster Bay/Cold Spring Harbor Protection Committee is excited to be developing a comprehensive campaign to raise awareness of the long neglected issue of onsite wastewater treatment system maintenance with an unprecedented coalition of 32 municipalities,” said Robert Crafa, coordinator of the Oyster Bay/Cold Spring Harbor Protection Committee. “This inter-municipal cooperation will be key to addressing this priority issue that has been identified as a priority by study after study in the last several decades.”

“Oyster Bay Harbor produces up to 90 percent of New York State’s oysters and up to 33 percent of the state’s hard clams and a large portion of Hempstead Harbor was recently re-opened to shellfish harvesting for the first time in over 40 years,” said Eric Swenson, executive director of the Hempstead Harbor Protection Committee. “Keeping these waters clean is critical to our local economies. With tens of thousands of homes with septic systems feeding into these waterbodies, it is critical that these systems be maintained.  The C.E.S.S.P.O.O.L. project is fulfilling a real need. Without New York State funding, this would not be possible.”

“Maintaining the quality of our water, whether drinking water, surface water or the water in our harbors and bays, will be the determining factor for the future growth of Long Island,” said Patricia Aitken, executive director of Friends of The Bay. “The health of Long Island’s economy is inextricably linked to the health of our coastal ecosystems. This collaboration between Friends of the Bay, the protection committees and the town is a groundbreaking initiative to address the issue of septic contamination of Long Island’s water supply.”

To learn more about each regional council and their economic development plans, visit www.nyworks.ny.gov.