A regional coalition is embarking on a state-funded education program to raise awareness about properly maintaining private septic tanks and cesspools.
A large portion of the land mass of Nassau County's North Shore still is reliant upon septic systems and simple cesspools which, if improperly maintained, can cause environmental problems, experts said.
The Long Island Regional Economic Development Council and the outreach campaign is designed to 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, according to its proponents.
Some older Long Island homes still use cesspools for their household waste water. In the 1970s, some were upgraded to septic systems, but these, too, must be maintained, officials said.
“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 project, entitled "Coordinated Environmental Solutions for Septic Problems Occurring on Long Island (C.E.S.S.P.O.O.L. Project), is being funded by a $45,000 grant to the Town of Oyster Bay received as part of Governor Andrew M. Cuomo’s Regional Council initiative.
“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.
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 septic systems.
The project is designed to raise regional awareness of the need for regular, routine maintenance of private septic systems.
“Proper wastewater treatment is an important topic that needs to be addressed by all levels of government regionally and cooperatively," said "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.”
Septic systems are major contributors to the contamination of fecal coliform bacteria and other pollutants to Long Island’s ground waters, harbors, bays and waterways," said Oyster Bay Supervisor "Groundwater contamination is, consequently, of grave concern, as this contamination could enter the drinking supply through the aquifers."
Oyster Bay will serve as the lead agency for the coalition of three Long Island watershed protection committees – Manhasset Bay, Hempstead Harbor, and Oyster Bay/Cold Spring Harbor, and Friends of The Bay as part of the education program.
"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.
To learn more about each regional council and their economic development plans, visit www.nyworks.ny.gov.