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Member Highlight: Southampton Town Civic Coalition

Andrea Spilka 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.

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