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Apr 26, 2016 9:53 AMPublication: The Southampton Press

County Executive Calls For New Fees On Water Use To Fight Nitrogen Pollution

At a press conference on Monday, Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone with county and local officials  pitches a proposal to impose a new water-use surcharge on county residents and businesses.
Apr 26, 2016 12:22 PM

Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone and a host of county and local officials this week pitched a proposal to impose a new water use surcharge on county residents and businesses, with the money to be used to combat water quality problems caused by residential development and outdated septic systems.

The proposal, if approved by public referendum, would charge all water users $1 for each 1,000 gallons of water used, regardless of which public authority provides the water. Mr. Bellone said it would cost the average family of four about $73 per year and would raise some $75 million for water quality improvement efforts countywide each year.

The county executive emphasized that even with the new fees, county residents would still be paying far less than the national average of $5.25 per 1,000 gallons of water.

The money raised by the new fee would go to addressing high nitrogen levels in the county’s tidal bays and creeks and freshwater ponds by improving treatment of wastewater from residential toilets. It would include funds for new sewer treatment systems covering larger areas, as well as smaller efforts to upgrade septics for individual properties and small clusters of houses.

“This referendum would literally turn the tide on Suffolk County’s water quality crisis,” County Executive Bellone said. “Governor Cuomo has made water quality a top issue in this state, establishing the Center for Clean Water Technology at Stony Brook University, funding the Long Island Nitrogen Action Plan and securing $383 million in water quality infrastructure dollars for Suffolk County. This new initiative to create a recurring revenue source for clean water infrastructure will help implement the governor’s water quality goals here in Suffolk County.”

Last year, the state founded the Center for Clean Water Technology to spur innovation of new and cheaper wastewater treatment techniques that release less nitrogen into water tables.

The county recently adopted a Comprehensive Water Resources Management Plan, which prioritized upgrading septic treatment countywide, particularly on the more than 360,000 private homes with aging and outdated cesspools and septic systems that leach nitrogen-laden wastewater into water tables.

The new fees, which the county has dubbed the Water Quality Protection Fee, would have to be created by the State Legislature and approved by a majority of voters in a public referendum. The goal is to put the referendum before voters this fall, although it could take until 2017.

Various regional officials supported the new Water Quality Protection Fee, including the South Fork’s two town supervisors.

“We have a responsibility to future generations that our water remains drinkable and our bays support marine life,” Southampton Town Supervisor Jay Schneiderman said in a statement after the announcement of the fee proposal. “Changing course is never easy, but it must be done.”

“It’s not a silver bullet,” said East Hampton Town Supervisor Larry Cantwell. “But it’s one piece of the matrix of things that have to be done to fix water quality.”

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TAX TAX TAX and more Tax - enough already!
By farmlocal (83), Southampton on Apr 26, 16 11:46 AM
2 members liked this comment
What do you expect from a Tax and Spend Democratic regime in the County with the highest taxes in the entire Country.

By Frank Wheeler (1826), Northampton on Apr 26, 16 12:21 PM
2 members liked this comment
Fortunately this item is subject to a vote by the people. And it will probably be on the same ballot that seeks to extend CPF and start grabbing 10% of that money for "water quality" as well. I hope that people are paying attention!!
By Theresa Kiernan (26), Southampton on Apr 26, 16 3:08 PM
1 member liked this comment
What about private well water use, The polo farm in Water Mill will be pumping 1000 gallons of private well water per minute. That's a lot of untaxed water use by a major contributor of nitrogen in the groundwater.
By rv (38), watermill on Apr 26, 16 12:55 PM
1 member liked this comment
I agree with you. This tax only hits people that are hooked up to Suffolk Water and not those with private wells. I also wonder how many of the large farms use Suffolk water as opposed to private wells. They are large consumers of water.
At least the issue is being addressed as being larger than a local issue and beyond the county and state I wonder how it is being addressed at the national level. Surely the problem must occur in other parts of the country.
By Toma Noku (616), Southampton on Apr 26, 16 1:16 PM
I don't support a wholesale tax on everyone - I think it makes sense to put a cap on water usage. Figure out what's the average used for a typical suburban home. Once you start going over that rate, the extra fees kick in. This punishes the biggest abusers of water (who are, in turn, likely the biggest abusers of fertilizer). Additionally, I have some concerns with taxing people who are hooked up to sewer systems and already pay heavily for those districts.
By Nature (2966), Southampton on Apr 26, 16 1:21 PM
1 member liked this comment
You would have thought they would have changed the corruption model but nope, still the same old trick. Seems like there must be a Fleecing 101 class that all politicians take. This act of taxing people more to create a fund to be used by politicians to enrich their friends under the guise that it's for ''our own good'' has to stop.
By KevinLuss (356), SH on Apr 26, 16 1:44 PM
No more new regulations or taxes until EPA first acknowledges three major sources of nutrient pollution, that are presently ignored.
1. The lack of nitrogenous (urine and protein) waste treatment in municipal sewage, due to a faulty test, nobody wants to admit, but also is a nutrient pollution. Wp.me/p5COh2-2C
2. Septic tanks do not treat sewage, they only solubilize sewage so it can get into groundwater.
3. The impact of 'green'rain' or rain containing reactive nitrogen (fertilizer), ...more
By PMaier (3), Stansbury on Apr 26, 16 2:16 PM
1 member liked this comment