Water Quality Restoration Act

By Suffolk County Legislator, Ann E. Welker

There are two important initiatives that will be found on the back of our ballots this November, one having to do with water quality, the other with equal rights in NYS. The process of educating ourselves about both of these issues must begin now, so that we are informed when we go to the polls in the fall.

The first referendum will be for the Suffolk County Water Quality Restoration Fund. This initiative is presently in the State Senate Finance Committee and will be making its way through both houses of the State Legislature. It will then will be voted on by the Suffolk County Legislature, after which it will be placed on the ballot in November.

The Suffolk County Water Quality Restoration Act would allow voters the opportunity to approve or deny the consolidation of the county’s sewer districts and create a fund to be specifically used for continued sewering , where it makes sense, and provide assistance to homeowners required to use advanced “active treatment” wastewater systems, whose homes are located where sewering is not an option, like much of the East End. The Referendum, if approved, will be to increase the Suffolk County Sales Tax by 1/8 of one percent, which equates to approximately 12 cents on every one hundred dollars. The generated monies will create a continuing revenue stream to fund upgrades to antiquated septic systems, as well as for sewage treatment facilities where appropriate perhaps in downtown business districts. Suffolk County has over 350,000 antiquated septic systems that leach nitrogen into our surface waters, harbors, bays and ponds, where it creates or exponentially contributes to Harmful Algal Blooms (HABS). This excess nitrogen also can leach in to our drinking water, which lies in underground aquifers. It is important to note that aquifers are our sole source of drinking water on Long Island.

The second proposition which will be found on the back of our ballots in November will be to ratify the New York State Equal Rights Amendment. Perhaps some of you were fortunate enough to attend the event hosted by The League of Women Voters of the Hamptons, North Fork and Shelter Island in March at LTV, which served as a launch for this referendum. This topic is broad, many panelists shared their expertise as part of this event.

Recently, the NYS Legislature passed an updated version of the Water Quality Act expected to be signed by Governor Hochul. It will only become law, when Suffolk County holds the referendum this fall.

More information will be forthcoming on these important initiatives, as we transition from spring into summer and especially in to fall.