Bellone, Environmental Leaders, Announce Alarming Findings on Region’s Water Quality and its Impact on Public Health and Safety

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Study Updated Since Sandy Demonstrates Decline in Water Quality has Weakened Natural Defenses Against Storms.

Hauppauge, NY - January 23, 2014 - Today, County Executive Steve Bellone was joined by leading Environmental Scientist, Chris Gobler, Ph.D. County Legislators, Supervisors Anna Throne-Holst and Ed Romaine, the Suffolk County Water Authority and environmental advocates to announce the release of the Executive Summary of Suffolk County’s Comprehensive Water Resources Management Plan, the first update since 1987.
 
The executive summary highlights the number one threat to public health and safety in the region: Nitrogen pollution of ground and surface waters. According to the report findings, nitrogen has reached critically high levels, impacting drinking water, recreational waterways and reducing wetlands, which act as Long Island’s last line of natural defense against disasters such as Superstorm Sandy. 
 
“Water is at the heart of everything on Long Island,” stated County Executive Bellone  “It is critical to our health and our quality of life and it underpins our multi-billion dollar tourism industry.  Today, we release a report that shows we have been polluting this precious resource in a way that has devastated our surface waters - our bays and river corridors - caused negative trends in the quality of our drinking water and left us more vulnerable to future storms, like Sandy.”
 
“I consider water quality and its impact on public health and safety to be the most important priority of my administration.  Today, begins a sustained campaign to inform Suffolk County residents about the scope of this problem and to work with the scientific, environmental and business community, as well as my colleagues on all levels of government to identify and fund solutions.”
 
With 70% of Suffolk County being unsewered, the cost of solving this problem has seemed an insurmountable obstacle but it must be addressed. County Executive Bellone directed the Departments of Health, Public Works and Economic Development to develop criteria that identifies the most critical parcels contributing to the decline of our water quality. With information culled from criteria used, we will be able to prioritize parcels within proximity to streams, rivers and other bodies of water.
 
“The good news is that the county is embracing this science; it recognizes very clearly the connection between what is happening on land and water and how it affects our economy,” stated Chris Gobler, Ph.D, Professor-School of Marine and Atmospheric Sciences at Stony Brook University.  “I applaud the county for continually being vigilant, recognizing the science behind these issues and what's driving changes and paving the path for creative solutions to help the environment and our economy.”
 
“I commend County Executive Bellone's efforts to protect the quality of our drinking and surface waters because our economy is strengthened by a healthy environment and a degraded environment leads to the production of fewer jobs,” stated Kevin Law, President and CEO of the Long Island Association." .
 
“I’d like to thank County Executive Bellone for making the comp plan his administration’s top priority,” said Suffolk County Water Authority Chairman James F. Gaughran. “Right now, our customers enjoy a very modest water bill. However, their water bill could very well become astronomical in the future if we do not turn the tide on the degradation of our aquifer system.”
 
“The need to ensure our water quality is protected as well as the need to ensure that everyone has a good place to live are clearly compatible under the plan announced today by County Executive Bellone,” stated Mitchell H. Pally, Chief Executive Officer, the Long Island Builders Institute (LIBI).  “LIBI looks forward to working with all concerned to make sure that both goals can be met quickly and safely.”
 
“The report issued today highlights the reality that we are at a critical moment in the health of our water resources and for the continued viability of Long Island as a region, stated Legislator Kara Hahn, Chairwoman, Legislative Committee on Environment, Planning and Agriculture.  “We won’t allow aging septic tanks and rising sea levels to destroy our way of life. We must act now with utmost urgency to address the critical issue necessary to sustain Suffolk’s water for future generations. It's been 30 years since the last water quality report was issued in 1987 and we don't have 30 years to get this right. We have to turn this around now.”
 
“The Suffolk County Comprehensive Water Resources Management Executive Summary just released by County Executive Bellone documents an increase in nitrogen pollution that threatens Long Island’s health and quality of life,” said Kevin McDonald, the Nature Conservancy. “It underscores that our groundwater is contaminated by nitrogen pollution from sewage which degrades all of our bays and harbors around the region. TNC commends County Executive Bellone for his leadership in releasing this important report. Acknowledging this challenge is the first step towards fixing it.”
 
“Today marks the turning point where we are no longer debating the problem but rather are strategizing to fix it,” said Adrienne Esposito, Executive Director of Citizens Campaign for the Environment.  “All levels of government, environmentalists, farmers, developers and businesses need to collaborate and work together to protect what matters to us most – our water. Sewage pollution, pesticides, toxic chemicals and pharmaceutical drugs cannot be allowed to continue to pollute our water supply.  We are look forward to partnering with County Executive Bellone to restore and protect this irreplaceable resource.”
 
“The number one job of government is taking care of public health,” stated Dick Amper. “The first step to solving any problem is acknowledging the problem. We are going to need sewage upgrades, look at how we use pesticides. It's a job that can be done because it must be done.”
 
"Thankfully, Suffolk County has a proud history of environmental protection which gives us great hope, and today's announcement demonstrates that the County Executive is commuted to providing the leadership and momentum we will need to protect and restore the beauty and bounty of our precious coastal waters,” stated Bob DeLuca, President Group for the East End.
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