Suffolk County partnering with organizations in reversing the decades of nitrogen pollution in local waterways.
Suffolk County, NY - June 1, 2018 - Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone today signed legislation to provide $200,000 in water quality funding for the design of two wastewater treatment improvement systems at the Congregation of the Sisters of St. Joseph’s 212-acre Brentwood campus. The County funding will advance the design for the installation of an Innovative and Alternative On-site Wastewater Treatment System (I/A OWTS) and a Constructed Wetland Treatment System, which will significantly reduce the flow of nitrogen into the groundwater.
“Suffolk County is committed to partnering with all organizations who share in our vision of reversing the decades of nitrogen pollution in our waterways,” said Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone. “We will continue to support and assist in funding these critical projects, which will ensure our water is safe for all.”
Suffolk County Majority Leader Kara Hahn said: “While for most, Long Island’s drinking water is cherished, but for the Sisters of St. Joseph’s it is sacred. In either case, Suffolk County’s partnership with the Sisters of St. Joseph’s to design a modern wastewater treatment system that will replace the ineffective one in use today will ensure that the resource most vital to all life, out drinking water, is protected.”
Suffolk County Legislator Monica Martinez said: "I'm proud to have co-sponsored Resolution 1385 which appropriates funds for the initial phase of the construction of two wastewater treatment improvement systems at the historic campus of the Sisters of St. Joseph's. This public-private partnership will help bring economic development to Brentwood as well as help preserve our environment. I would also like to recognize the transformation that the campus has gone under the current leadership of the Sisters of St. Joseph. They've made significant investments in other environmental initiatives such as solar energy, eco-friendly initiatives and organic agricultural initiative. The Sisters are exemplary neighbors of the 9th Legislative District."
Sister Helen Kearney, Congregation of the Sisters of St. Joseph President said: "This initiative is a current expression of our congregation's mission of unity as we strive to meet the needs of our neighbors which includes all of creation. Our 212 acre campus welcomes over 2,000 persons each day for educational, employment and social service opportunities. This project along with our farming, solar and woodland projects will protect our precious water and land resources while promoting the health and well-being of the people in the area.”
Sister Karen Burke, Congregation of the Sisters of St. Joseph Coordinator of Land Initiatives said: “As a congregation of women religious, we have always responded to the needs of the community and worked to do whatever was necessary to meet them. At this time of planetary degradation and aware of the needs of the Long Island bioregion, we continue to respond by improving the wastewater management system at our facility in a cost-efficient, sustainable manner while reducing the nitrogen threat to the groundwater.”
Currently the wastewater generated on site is collected and delivered to an on-site sanitary wastewater system comprised of a septic tank, pump stations and leaching fields. The purpose of this project is to design adequate on-campus treatment systems to eliminate the existing, inadequate septic system and cesspools and reduce the amount of nitrogen entering the groundwater.
The design will consist of two separate and independent wastewater treatment systems, one Innovative and Alternative On-site Wastewater Treatment System (I/A OWTS) for the Maria Regina Skilled Nursing Facility on campus and a Constructed Wetland Treatment System for the remainder of the campus.
The funding for this project is being provided by the Suffolk County Water Quality Protection and Restoration Program and Land Stewardship Initiative funds. The Congregation of the Sisters of St. Joseph will provide matching project funds and any additional amount required to complete the project.
The funding for the design of these new systems supports County Executive Bellone’s Reclaim our Water initiative, which seeks to reduce nitrogen pollution of groundwater and surface waters from cesspools and septic systems through the connection of communities to sewer systems and the installation of advanced on-site wastewater treatment systems. Nitrogen pollution in Suffolk County waterways contributes to beach closures, restrictions on harvesting of shellfish, harmful algae blooms, and fish kills.
In 2015, the Sisters of St. Joseph affirmed a Land Ethic Statement and are collaborating with the Peconic Land Trust to protect their 212-acre parcel of land in Brentwood that contains significant natural and community resources. The statement professes a strong and profound commitment to the protection of the earth’s air, soil, plants, and animals. The campus, in support of its ecological mission, is comprised of an organic garden, leased farmland, a four-acre solar array, a three-acre drought-tolerant native grass and wildflower meadow, and a 2,000 square foot rain garden containing native plants and flowers that will allow rainwater to slowly percolate into the ground instead of becoming storm water runoff.
The Brentwood campus, which is located in a New York State designated Environmental Justice area - a low-income and minority community that suffers from disproportionate exposure to potentially hazardous land uses, includes a skilled nursing facility, a large multi-story interconnected building that is host to administrative offices, a chapel, residential space, a full service kitchen, educational facilities, and common areas. The campus is also comprised of woodlands, farmland, and open space.