LI Sound Water Hearing Gets Vocal

From left: Assemblyman Chuck Lavine, Manhasset Library Director Maggie Gough, Assemblyman Anthony D’Urso, Town of North Hempstead fourth district Councilwoman Anna M. Kaplan, Assemblyman Steve Englebright, Town of North Hempstead sixth district Councilwoman Dina M. De Giorgio and Assemblymen Michael Montesano and Steven Otis

Port Washington environmental advocates came out to speak for the water at the Long Island Sound water quality hearing held by Assemblyman Anthony D’Urso, chair of the Long Island Sound Task Force, and Assemblyman Steve Englebright, chair of the assembly’s Environmental Conservation Committee, at the Manhasset Public Library on Aug. 27.

“The sound is an important part of Long Island, helping our local economy with tourism and fishing, serving as home to countless marine and bird species and in general shaping many aspects of our way of life,” said D’Urso. “We need to make sure we are taking the necessary steps to help preserve this way of life for future generations, and to me, water quality is an essential component of that preservation. It is this thought that prompted me to use my role as chair of the Long Island Sound Task Force to hold this hearing.”

Environmental advocates—including Executive Director of Residents Forward Mindy Germain, Executive Director of the Manhasset Bay Protection Committee Sarah Deonarine, Director of Intergovernmental Affairs at the Town of North Hempstead Rachel Brinn and Councilwoman Dina De Giorgio—brought up concerns such as high levels of nitrogen, groundwater, sewage systems, fertilizers, climate change, rise in the ocean, habitat loss and waste.

Clean Water Associate of Environmental Advocates of New York Robert Hayes brought up a recent advisory against swimming placed on multiple beaches throughout Long Island—including North Hempstead Beach Park—due to hazardous water quality on Aug. 18.

“Strong water runoff saturated in nitrogen gushed into the sound, contributing to elevated bacteria levels,” said Hayes. “The result was yet another day in which the north shore communities were separated from their economic and cultural benefit.”

Germain explained that the quality of Long Island groundwater is in a steady state of decline. She urged the assemblymen sitting before her to pass funding for components of the comprehensive groundwater study for Long Island that was part of Governor Andrew Cuomo’s water quality initiatives discussed on Long Island in 2016. Englebright assured Germain that the legislature’s role in the funding has been completed.

Deonarine explored issues that affect Manhasset Bay, explaining that the pollutants in the bay originate from upland sources such as the New York City sewage treatment plant. Threats to the bay, and other harbors nearby like Hempstead Harbor, include nitrogen, septic systems and fertilizers. Deonarine said that Manhasset Bay has experienced habitat loss, loss of wetlands and shellfish beds.

“Of particular issue to Manhasset Bay and other bays are pollutants carried by storm water and pathogens which are bacteria and viruses,” said Deonarine. “They are the most important to Manhasset Bay and other bays because they determine whether we can tell people to go swimming, fishing.”

Deonarine asked that the assembly make a long-term promise of a line item of $200,000 each year, as they have for the last two, for monitoring project programs. The Manhasset Bay Protection Committee hopes to create a water quality improvement plan in upcoming years with said funding as the organization has not had one completed in 20 years.

“Going forward, we urge the state to continue funding the activities of [the Manhasset Bay and Hempstead Harbor] protection committees so that we may continue to address concerns in a holistic way,” said Brinn. “We particularly need assistance with water quality monitoring because current data is essential to strategic planning.”

De Giorgio also asked the assembly to fund the efforts of both protection committees and echoed Germain’s thanks to the assembly for funding the comprehensive groundwater study.

“I also sit on the Western Nassau County Aquifer Committee and I want to echo Mindy Germain’s comments about how critically important it is that we study the ramifications of opening up the Queens well on Long Island,” said De Giorgio. “I speak on behalf of the entire town board—we support strongly the [committee’s] efforts to secure the money for the study and spearhead the study, so it’s very gratifying to know that it will be funded and we really appreciate that.”

De Giorgio also advocated for funding to connect residents that border Manhasset Bay to the sewer system.

“Although a significant portion of the Manhasset-Port Washington peninsula is connected to sewers, there still remains a large number of homes, particularly in Bayview Colony which borders Manhasset Bay, that are not sewered,” explained De Giorgio. “We are working with Legislator [Delia] DeRiggi-Whitton to secure some county funding to defray the cost of potentially connecting that community to the sewage system in Port Washington, but the cost is upwards of $10 million and it’s not something that the town can take on on its own, and unfortunately asking the residents to pay for those upgrades themselves is just not practical.”

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