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Governor Cuomo Allocates $300 Million for Environmental Protection Fund

This year’s Executive Budget continues historic investments in Long Island’s parks, beaches, and waterways.

Since 1993, the Environmental Protection Fund (EPF) has been New York’s dedicated funding source for environmental programs from Montauk to Buffalo. The EPF funds projects that are critically important for protecting our natural resources and connecting New Yorkers with their local environment. Some of the programs funded throughout the EPF include; drinking water protection, open space and parks preservation, waterfront revitalization, pollution prevention, hazardous waste disposal, recycling programs,  pesticide reduction, and invasive species removal. The EPF also supports our botanical gardens, aquariums, and zoos.

The funding in the EPF comes from NY’s Real Estate Transfer Tax (RETT), which means that although the EPF was always intended to grow to a robust source of funding for NY’s environmental programs, the funding levels have fluctuated with the real estate market and hit historic lows in the years following the 2008 financial crisis.  As the economy has recovered and our state leaders have made increased commitments to environmental protection, the EPF has risen to a record $300 million. Now, for the third year in a row, Governor Cuomo has committed to continue this record-level investment for the EPF in his Executive Budget.

Long Island is one the largest beneficiaries of EPF funding in the state, with Nassau and Suffolk having received over $200 million combined over the last 20+ years. On Long Island, over $80 million has been invested in open spaces, parks, and farms, which in turn generates $2.74 billion in economic benefits annually.  Funding from the EPF prevents polluted runoff from agriculture from entering nearby waterways, improves public access to Long Island’s beaches, and supports water quality improvement programs in over 30 Long Island municipalities.  While these programs are necessary for protecting our land, drinking and surface water resources for generations to come, they also have immediate economic benefits. In addition to creating good, local jobs, every $1 invested in the EPF generates $7 in economic benefits.  The success of the EPF shows time and again that, for Long Island, what’s good for the environment is good for the economy.

The LI Clean Water Partnership applauds Governor Cuomo for his continued commitment to the EPF. Now, we need our Senate and Assembly leaders to allocate $300 million in their respective budgets and ensure that we continue to grow the successful programs funded through the EPF. To learn more about the LICWP’s push for funding for the EPF, sign up for updates today!

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Long Island water pollution solutions

Continuing to work towards Long Island water pollution solutions

Long Island water pollution is a well-documented problem. Research has shown that both old cesspools and even more current septic tank and leaching pool systems, provide little treatment of nitrogen generated from human waste. This untreated nitrogen finds its way into our ground and surface waters where it can contaminate drinking water and seriously impact coastal ecosystems.  In addition to nitrogen from sewage, Long Island's waters are also contaminated with pesticides and their residues, toxic chemicals, and even prescription medications. Scientists have helped us define the problem, but now it's time to talk about solutions.

On the local level, energizing and mobilizing communities to embrace innovative solutions for improving water quality, and encouraging them to support water quality improvement plans is essential. Currently, homeowners can take advantage of grant rebate programs in Suffolk County, Southampton, and East Hampton. Community members can also join the Long Island Clean Water Partnership to support Long Island water pollution solutions!

On the County level, there have been great strides towards Long Island water pollution solutions. Most recently, Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone signed a cesspool ban legislation into law. Cesspools have been found to have an immense negative impact on our water quality. Continuing to address and take action against similar culprits to worsening water quality will prove to be helpful in finding Long Island water pollution solutions.

One the state level, Governor Cuomo recently announced New York State will allocate $150 million to fully contain and treat the toxic plume in Bethpage from the Navy/Grumman facility. This remediation plan is a victory to furthering Long Island water pollution solutions. $2.04 million in grants will also support the health of Long Island Sound, including key local projects supporting the Long Island Nitrogen Action Plan.

While these victories have been essential in improving Long Island water quality, there is still much to be done. Find legislators in your area and tell them the time to act is now. Together, we can improve Long Island water quality for generations to come. Join the Long Island Clean Water Partnership today and take action to find Long Island water pollution solutions!

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Andrea Spilka Southampton Town Civic Coalition

Member Highlight: Southampton Town Civic Coalition

Interview with Long Island Clean Water Partnership Member Andrea Spilka

We sat down with Partnership member, Andrea Spilka, President of the Southampton Town Civic Coalition, to speak about Long Island’s water quality. Here are her eloquent thoughts:

Question: Why should Long Islanders care about their water?
Andrea: Lots of reasons – as far as I’m concerned, it’s the life blood of our health and our economy. We’re surrounded by water. Everything we do – drinking our water, if we want to go fishing, if we want to go to the beach, our vineyards, our farms – all require good, clean water. Sadly, as we hear from scientists, the water isn’t nearly as good as it should be. You can’t open up the newspaper without reading about a closed beach or a fishing bed that’s been closed. All of that hurts not only our health, which is very serious, but it also hurts our economy.

Question: What can our community be doing to protect Long Island’s water quality? (Or what is it not doing?)
Andrea: The good news is that every level of government is finally getting involved (partly as a result of the efforts of the Partnership). We need to keep lobbying every candidate, every town board member, and every politician at every level, to say we care about water and that we need clean water. On the East End, we took an important step, by extending the Community Preservation Fund.

Other things that could be happening: We need better regulations. I’ve been advocating, along with my civics, for incentives for advanced wastewater treatments. I want a mandate that for every new home that is built, a new septic system or nitrogen-reduction system be required. I want there to be penalties if you don’t comply. Not so much for the small homeowner, but there needs to be more attention placed on big development projects. We also need more staff at every level of government, to monitor what’s happening. Government can create mandates, but if there’s no enforcement or no monitoring, then who knows what happens.

Question: What is the biggest hurdle that Long Island has in tackling its water quality problems?

Andrea: People think that there is a disconnect between protecting the environment/water quality and moving our economy forward. They’re not mutually exclusive, and if we do it right, we can work together to build in the right places and build carefully. We should make water quality our first priority, because it is our economy.

Question: How can Long Islanders get involved with what you do to protect water quality?
Well, they can be like me – I’m a volunteer. When I first moved out here, I just kept reading the newspaper, and read all the news about water problems and ways to improve the environment. Join a local civic organization. Join the Long Island Clean Water Partnership. You can make a difference at the town and local level – speak up at a Town Board meeting, tell them that water quality is important to you. Ask candidates questions at “meet the candidates” night about their plans to address our water quality crisis. Get involved.

Check out the full interview video below.

Never miss a beat from the Long Island Clean Water Partnership - sign up for blog email updates here.

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New York State Commits to Full Remediation of Navy/Grumman Plume

Governor Cuomo Announces $150 Million to Fully Contain and Treat Toxic Plume in Bethpage

Over 30 years ago, the Navy/Grumman groundwater plume in Bethpage was declared a state Superfund Site after contamination from Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs) was detected at the site. Although manufacturing at the Navy/Grumman facility ended in 1996, the plume has continued to grow deeper and expand, threatening the drinking water of south shore communities. The plume, which is now 1.8 miles wide, 3.7 miles long, and up to 800 feet deep, has been found to contain 24 toxic contaminants.

Today, the Governor came to Long Island to announce exciting news! After reevaluating the plume and producing a new 3-d model, New York State declared it is possible to contain the plume and to fully remediate the contamination. There will be 14 new wells installed around the perimeter of the plume, with 4 wells specifically targeting toxic hot spots, to pump out the existing pollutants. In addition, the state will use advanced oxidation to treat for 1,4-dioxane and prevent further contamination of groundwater resources from emerging contaminants. After decades of waiting on the federal government to clean up their legacy waste, the state is moving forward and no longer allowing the Navy to delay crucial drinking water protection efforts.

Governor Cuomo announced he will include $150 million in next year’s budget to move forward with this remediation plan. While the federal government is ultimately responsible to foot the bill for the clean-up, we can no longer sit around and allow the toxic plume to spread to additional drinking water wells, further contaminate our sole-source aquifer, and threaten public health in Bethpage and nearby communities. This is the first step towards a full clean-up of one of the worst toxic plumes on Long Island and will begin to reverse a legacy of pollution that has too long plagued Long Island residents.  

To learn more about groundwater pollution issues near you, make sure to sign up for updates from LICWP!

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Rauch Guest Blog

The Long Island Clean Water Partnership Points the Way

Guest Blog by Nancy Rauch Douzinas, President of the Rauch Foundation

One of Long Island’s major challenges is that of its fragmented landscape of governmental and civic organizations. This fragmentation runs deep – with 665 government entities alone, according to the Long Island Index, published by the Rauch Foundation. Yet we compete on a regional basis, and many of our most important issues must be tackled regionally. This is especially true with the environment, where combating major impediments to water quality, for instance, requires collaboration to arrive at solutions, build consensus around them, and generate public support.

That’s why the Rauch Foundation helped establish the Long Island Clean Water Partnership, a consortium of organizations committed to collaborating among themselves and among a wide range of stakeholders to implement solutions to reverse the decline in the region’s water quality. The Partnership involves five principal organizations – Citizens Campaign for the Environment; Group for the East End; Long Island Pine Barrens Society; The Nature Conservancy, and Stony Brook University, the Partnership’s scientific affiliate. Since the Partnership’s founding in 2013, each of those organizations has continued its own important work, while agreeing on specific collective priorities for bringing about the restoration of Long Island’s aquifers and surface waters.

The Foundation invested in the Partnership, because we believe in the value of collaboration, and that value has already borne itself out in numerous ways. Most notably, the Partnership was the driving force behind securing funding in the New York State budget for the Long Island Nitrogen Action Plan, which brought together the State’s Department of Environmental Conservation, both counties, and the Long Island Regional Planning Council to undertake needed science at the watershed level. More recently, the Partnership played a vital role in highlighting regional priorities, as reflected in the $2.5 billion Clean Water Infrastructure Act, signed by Governor Cuomo on Long Island this past April.

The Rauch Foundation’s support for the Long Island Clean Water Partnership is part of a broader commitment by the Foundation to partnerships and coalitions as mechanisms for moving the needle on regional change. Other examples relating to the environment on Long Island include the Long Island Sound Funders Collaborative, a consortium of thirteen philanthropies focused on a coordinated approach to grant making in and around the Sound, and the Right Track for Long Island Coalition, representing more than 500,000 Long Islanders working with Governor Cuomo to support the LIRR’s Enhancement Project (the Third Track). In the Chesapeake Bay region in Maryland, the Foundation has also played a principal role in helping to negotiate a merger between three Eastern Shore organizations to form a more powerful water protection presence there.

Nearly five years since its inception, the Long Island Clean Water Partnership is an excellent example of how to fashion regional approaches resulting in real and lasting change. Let’s embrace the model and replicate it on other issues to build a prosperous future for Long Island.

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Long Island drinking water is at risk from common household cleaners, old septic systems, and contamination from prescription drugs. Take action now to protect our drinking water.

Long Island drinking water: How do we protect it?

Our families rely on clean Long Island drinking water

There is no way around it - we need water to survive. We live on an island, and it is critical to our well-being that our water is safe for drinking on Long Island. Our children and grandchildren often drink from school water fountains, we brush our teeth from the tap, and our dogs may even drink from the toilet, despite our best efforts. But how safe is it?

Poor water quality continues to threaten Long Island drinking water, and also impacts everything from shellfisheries to leisurely activities like boating and swimming. There are solutions outside of purchasing bottled water (which we don't recommend - opt for reusable bottles and limit waste!) to protect our drinking water at home.

Go green at home by reducing the use of common household contaminants. Pesticides, fertilizers, toxic cleaners, and chemical products are already bad news for humans, pets, and wildlife. When used or disposed of improperly, these items show up in our waterways, worsening the water quality and drinking water on Long Island. Opt for green or homemade products instead that are just as effective.

Inspect and replace your septic system as needed. Old septic systems have had a direct negative impact on Long Island drinking water, resulting in increased nitrogen pollution. The Community Preservation Fund extension and expansion now allows for 20% of funds to be used for water quality improvement projects in the five East End towns. Long Islanders in Suffolk County can take advantage of a septic system replacement through a grant rebate program.

Properly dispose of medications and substances through disposal programs on the East End, and in Suffolk and Nassau Counties. When flushed down the toilet, prescription and over-the-counter medications can contaminate our drinking water, as well as our bays and harbors. Medication drop boxes are safe and discreet, and also help prevent drug abuse, harm to children and pets, and others.

Tell your elected officials to take a stand on clean water. This affects them, too. Governor Cuomo and some New York State legislators have already taken proactive steps toward Long Island water quality, but we need more of our elected officials on board. Find legislators in your area and tell them the time to act is now.

What we need is simple - clean Long Island drinking water. How get it will take more work, and we will continue to fight until every last drop is safe to drink. 

Join the Long Island Clean Water Partnership today and take action to protect Long Island's drinking water!

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Long Island Municipalities Receive $688 million to Protect South Shore Estuary Reserve

NYS Funds Programs to Improve Water Quality and Protect Public Health

Good news for the South Shore Estuary Reserve! New York State has funded several municipal projects that will reduce pollution entering waterways, restore shellfish populations, improve coastal resiliency, and protect the overall health of the SSER.

The SSER, which extends for over 70 miles along the Atlantic shoreline of Long Island, from Reynolds Channel in Nassau County to the eastern shores of Shinnecock Bay in Suffolk County, is not only an invaluable resource but provides recreation, tourism, and economic opportunities for millions of Long Islanders.  To protect this resource, the New York State Legislature created the South Shore Estuary Reserve Council in 1993. The Council was charged with developing and ultimately implementing a comprehensive management plan for the estuary, which continues to guide how we deal with issues like water quality protection, living resources, public use, water related economy, education and stewardship.

Several of the projects funded this year will not only benefit the SSER but also compliment county and state level programs, including Suffolk County’s efforts to move from outdated septics and cesspools toward advanced wastewater treatment systems, the Long Island Nitrogen Action Plan, and ongoing state efforts to restore clams and oysters, protect salt marshes, and improve coastal resiliency on the south shore. Some of the projects that received funding include:

  • Freeport Community Development Agency and Operation SPLASH will install 37 catch basin inserts along heavy traffic areas near the industrial park in southeast Freeport; and near Merrick Road.
  • Nassau County Department of Public Works and the Nassau County Soil and Water Conservation District will remove Water Chestnut (Trapa natans), an invasive plant, from Massapequa Lake.
  • Town of Brookhaven and Seatuck Environmental Association will install an innovative/alternative onsite wastewater treatment system (I/A OWTS) at Corey Beach Park and Shirley Beach Park.
  • Town of Brookhaven and Cornell Cooperative Extension will implement an eelgrass restoration project on the south side of Bellport and Moriches bays.
  • Town of Hempstead will create two living shorelines to stabilize areas of salt marsh in Hempstead Bay
  • Town of Islip will install two algae bioreactors in the Town of lslip Shellfish Hatchery to increase algae production.
  • Village of Patchogue will retrofit eleven outfall pipes along the Patchogue River to remove sediment and trash from stormwater.

You can find a full list of projects here and make sure you are signed for the LI Clean Water Partnership’s alerts to get updates on efforts to protect the SSER.

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How to Protect Long Island’s Water on Giving Tuesday

Join in on the global day of giving

Giving Tuesday, celebrated on the Tuesday after Thanksgiving, is a globally-recognized day of giving. The day kicks-off the charitable season and encourages people to get involved in their community, find a cause they love, and donate their money, time or voice.

The Long Island Clean Water Partnership is a coalition of Long Island conservation, business, civic and scientific organizations, who are dedicated to protecting and restoring Long Island water quality. Tackling Long Island’s water quality issues is one of the biggest environmental and civic challenges we’ve ever faced – we need everyone to lend a helping hand.

There are many ways to get involved in the effort to restore Long Island’s water this Giving Tuesday –

Become a Member

If you haven’t done so already, register to become a member of the Long Island Clean Water Partnership to stay updated all year long on the latest on water quality improvement efforts, forums, and actions you can take.

Donate to Long Island Environmental Groups

There are many worthy environmental and civic groups working to protect Long Island’s water – Check out our members, read up on their missions, and consider donating to one of their worthy causes! Many groups are non-profit organizations, making them perfect recipients for your end-of-year giving!

Want to encourage friends and family to donate? Consider raising money for a group via Facebook!

Follow us on Social Media

Facebook - https://www.facebook.com/cleanwaterpartnership/?fref=ts

Twitter - @LICleanH2O

Share one of our posts and help educate your friends on Long Island water.

Write Your Elected Officials & Make Your Voice Heard

Write your town, county, state and federal elected officials and tell them why a healthy environment is important to you and urge them to address Long Island’s water quality problems.

Never miss an update from the Long Island Clean Water Partnership - sign up for blog email updates here.

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Long Island water is being polluted by nitrogen pollution from old septic systems. We can improve Long Island water by replacing septic systems. Rebate programs are also available.

Breaking Down the Long Island Water Crisis

What's wrong with Long Island water, and how to fix it.

The conversation about Long Island water isn't going to end anytime soon, but what does it all mean? Here is a breakdown of the Long Island water crisis, and how you can help fight it.

The problem: Excess nitrogen is choking our local Long Island water. The amount of excess nitrogen in our local waters has increased so dramatically over the last 25 years that our marine ecosystems are on the brink of total collapse. If left unchecked, the environmental, public health, and economic costs would be disastrous.

The biggest culprit: Old, leaky septic systems. Scientists have identified old, leaky septic systems as one of the worst offenders in polluting Long Island water. The excess nitrogen seeps directly into our bays and ponds, where its effects can lead to the death of massive numbers of marine plants and animals, and make it unsafe for people (and pets) to swim, eat shellfish, and go boating.

The solution: Replace old septic systems. Members of the Long Island Clean Water Partnership, scientists, elected officials, engineers, and civic organizations have determined:

1. The old septic systems must be upgraded or replaced by high tech ones that substantially reduce nitrogen.
2. They must be affordable for residents and businesses.
3. The public must be educated on the importance of replacing old systems.

The largest clean water action investment in decades is now clearly underway. Governor Andrew Cuomo and the New York State Legislature approved $75 million for septic system replacement in this year's budget and over $2 billion for critical clean Long Island water infrastructure across the state. New septic system replacement rebate programs in Suffolk County, and local septic system rebate programs in the towns of East Hampton and Southampton are also underway.

We know we have a long way to go, but thanks to the commitment of Long Islanders and their elected leaders we're making the right move to start combating nitrogen pollution to protect Long Island water.

Join the Long Island Clean Water Partnership and protect Long Island water today!

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Scallop Season Has Begun

How’s the Bay Scallop Harvest Been This Year?

If you cherish the sweet, juicy and delicious flavor of a Peconic Bay scallop, perhaps you’ve been anticipating the opening of scallop season this week. But will there be scallop dinners in abundance this year? Many of Long Island’s bays and harbors experienced harmful algal blooms this summer, including the longest and most intense brown tide bloom in recorded history.

All that water pollution means that shellfish like scallops and clams are struggling to survive in local waters. The occurrence of these events such as brown tide, have led to the collapse of critical marine habitats such as seagrass, major shell-fisheries on Long Island, and the coastal wetlands that help protect waterfront communities from the damaging impacts of storms. 

Unfortunately, a decline in shellfish isn’t the end of the problem. There’s a cascading effect because shellfish also filter the water and clean it while they feed. Left unchecked, the algae that shellfish eat start to bloom out of control.
Some algae produce toxins that accumulate in filter feeding shellfish which can poison people or wildlife that eat them. The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) increasingly monitors and seasonally closes shellfish beds due to algae blooms. Long Island’s water pollution problems are unfortunately getting worse and more widespread.

The majority of Long Island’s income is from tourism, and if people can’t swim and play in the water, or partake in its bounty, we all lose a big part of our local economy.

What’s the fate of Long Island’s waters? Long Island’s waters need a break!

In locations where feasible, sewage treatment plants can be upgraded to remove more nitrogen. And everywhere, fertilizer and pesticide application can be significantly reduced – including starting with your own home.

New kinds of septic systems safely remove far more nitrogen from human waste than current septic systems and cesspools. They are proven to work around the country and around the world. It’s a matter of bringing that industry here and providing a funding source for people to upgrade to these treatment systems.

For East End residents in particular, the Community Preservation Fund (CPF) can help improve local waters that are threatened by nitrogen pollution by allowing up to 20% of revenue to be used to improve water quality. This could raise $700 million for local water quality improvement projects and will continue the Community Preservation Fund’s successful land protection work. So far, 3 of 5 of the East End towns are making progress toward allocating funding for this critical work.

You can Long Island’s water pollution problems by having your cesspool pumped every 2-3 years and by reducing the amount of fertilizer used on your lawn!

Before going shellfishing, it's imperative to check that areas are safe before harvesting. Visit the Department of Environmental Conservation’s website.

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