Why are we hearing so much about wastewater systems?
Because wastewater directly affects the quality of our drinking water. Wastewater is a significant source of excess nitrates in our aquifer (the source of our drinking water) and in our bays. It can also be the source of other contaminants, such as coliform bacteria. Our current approaches to wastewater disposal are not always adequate, and this is likely to become more problematic in the very near future. If you’ve been reading the Suffolk Times and other sources of news, you’ve probably started to hear about “alternative wastewater systems” and the need to start thinking beyond cesspools and septic tanks.
Nitrates and shellfish
Shellfish and other marine life are ten or twenty times more sensitive to excess nitrates than we are. Nitrates are a major factor in algae blooms and other imbalances that harm shellfish and other marine life. No wonder our bays are in crisis.
If we want to restore the health of Peconic Bay and the Long Island Sound, we must do something about excess nitrates that flow through our wastewater systems and eventually leach into the ground, and out towards wetlands and bays. This is especially critical for properties close to these waters. The concentration of nitrates decreases over time and as it passes through wetlands, but even at the current levels, this natural process is not enough to protect marine life. As water and wastewater uses increase, this situation will get worse.
Change begins with knowledge
Peconic Green Growth is a non-profit organization founded and led by Glynis Berry who lives right here in Orient. Glynis has developed enormous knowledge and expertise in the study of water resources, watersheds, wastewater systems and the impacts both on our wells and our bays. She has been deeply involved studying these issues with the Town of Southampton and now Riverhead. PGG has been awarded several grants to study and map the situation on the North Fork and Peconic Estuary, most recently one for $90,000 from Suffolk County. Thanks go to Al Krupski and County Executive Steve Bellone for that. The Orient Association is collaborating with PGG and Glynis in these studies, and is a sponsor of PGG’s wastewater study, designed to understand present uses and plan for future alternatives.