"Water We Going To Do?"
On June 9, 2016 the Long Island Clean Water Partnership held its fifth annual “Water We Going to Do?” conference at the UPSKY Hotel on Long Island. The theme of this year’s conference was the progress made toward improving water quality island-wide. Over 150 people attended this year’s conference, which was sponsored by the Rauch Foundation.
This year’s conference was different than years past in that it focused around the action that is already taking place in communities around Long Island to improve our water quality. Previous conferences had focused largely on addressing and acknowledging the magnitude of the problem. Scientists, politicians, community leaders, non-profit organizations, citizen activists and business representatives were all present to share their successes in helping reverse the decline in water quality across Long Island.
As attendees made their way to conference, they enjoyed a light breakfast while networking, then the conference began with emcee David North of WALK 97.5.
Kevin Law, President of the Long Island Association, kicked off the presentations by discussing the role of the business community in tackling the water quality challenges Long Island faces. He noted that the economy and the environment are inextricably linked on Long Island.
Jim Tierney, Assistant Commissioner for Water Resources for the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation continued the program as he spoke about the Long Island Nitrogen Action Plan and the importance of taking action to improve our waters now.
John Cameron of the Long Island Regional Planning Council followed by discussing the opportunities and challenges Long Island faces, including the lack of a reliable funding stream for water quality improvement projects. He also discussed the Council’s 2035 Sustainability Plan for Long Island.
Peter Scully the Deputy County Executive for Administration Suffolk County discussed the possible sources of funding for the county for water quality improvement projects including County Executive Bellone’s proposed water quality protection fee.
Rob Walker, the Chief Deputy County Executive for Nassau County went over the major projects that Nassau is currently working on including the Bay Park sewage treatment plant that was heavily damaged during Superstorm Sandy, and the North Shore Sewer Project.
Ed Romaine, Town Supervisor for the Town of Brookhaven, reviewed the challenges that the Town of Brookhaven currently is facing and expressed the need for sewers in certain areas of the town.
Supervisor Judi Bosworth, for the Town of North Hempstead talked about how grassroots efforts, particularly in educating our youth, can help in reversing poor water quality decisions being made in the community.
Maura Spery, the mayor of the Village of Mastic Beach presented on the range of challenges the Village of Mastic Beach is facing, particularly that the town is a low-lying community with a increased risk of flooding and the need for sewers.
Mayor Paul Rickenbach of the Village of East Hampton reviewed the projects currently going on in the Village of East Hampton, including the water quality improvement project in Hook Pond.
Next we heard from scientists who are working tirelessly on solving Long Island’s water quality challenges.
Dr. Chris Gobler of Stony Brook University presented on water quality success stories in the Northeast. Using example communities in Connecticut as well as on Long Island, where they have made changes to improve the water quality, Dr. Gobler explained that success is possible in restoring Long Island’s water quality.
Chris Schubert, Supervisory Hydrologist for the United States Geological Survey (USGS) discussed the work the USGS is doing in defining groundwatersheds, and water recharge areas.
Chris Clapp, marine scientist at The Nature Conservancy Long Island, explained the efforts that other afflicted areas are taking to improve their water quality.
Jen Garvey of the Stony Brook Center for Clean Water Technology discussed a new wastewater treatment system that the center is researching, which could provide an effective replacement for the 360,000 aging and failing septic systems across Long Island.
Ty Fuller, Lead Hydrogeologist for the Suffolk County Water Authority gave details about the Long Island Commission for Aquifer Protection’s new mapping tool (“Watertraq”) that allows users to track public supply well water quality across Nassau and Suffolk Counties.
The last group of speakers were nonprofit leaders that are making it known that everyone has a role in helping improve Long Island’s waters.
Enrico Nardone, Executive Director of Seatuck Environmental Association presented on restoring fish pathways for migratory fish on Long Island.
Marshall Brown of Save the Great South Bay went over the successes of the Save the Great South Bay digital campaign.
Jeremy Samuelson, President of Concerned Citizens of Montauk discussed the group’s “Save the Lake – Save the Pond” initiative, launching a 3-year comprehensive, community-based program to improve water quality in Fort Pond and Lake Montauk.
Eric Swenson, Executive Director of the Hempstead Harbor Protection Committee discussed the transition of Hempstead Harbor from a highly polluted water body to a “gold mine.” Just another example of how success is possible in the fight to restore Long Island’s water quality.
Glynis Berry, Executive Director of the Peconic Green Growth presented on the challenges facing the Peconic estuary watershed, including the amount of nitrogen being contributed by towns on the north and south fork of Long Island. She also discussed water quality improvement projects taking place across the East End of Long Island.
Dick Amper, executive director of the Long Island Pine Barrens Society closed out the program by thanking all of the wonderful speakers and emphasizing the need for action by all to solve our water quality problem.
Thank you again to the Rauch Foundation who sponsored this year’s conference. Stay tuned for the sixth annual “Water We Going to Do?” conference in 2017!