JULY 11, 2019 • THE VILLAGE TIMES HERALD • PAGE A5
First phase of county blueway trail plan under way BY DAVID LUCES DLUCES@TBRNEWSMEDIA.COM County officials are asking residents for help in creating Suffolk’s new blueway trail. According to the National Park Service, a blueway trail is a water path that provides recreational boating opportunities along a river, lake, canal or coastline. The county’s blueway trail plan will make nonmotorized water sports — kayaking, canoeing, paddleboarding and rowing — more accessible to residents and visitors by identifying information needed for a safe and fun paddling experience. As part of the first phase, the county has launched a survey to solicit feedback from residents to see what they would want in a blueway trail. The comments and recommendations received through the survey will be open until July 15. “Our ultimate goal is to link the blueway trail to our great recreational assets, such as our parks, beaches, and hike and bike trails, as well as provide opportunities to advance ecotourism and economic development within the county,” said County Executive Steve Bellone (D).
Residents enjoy a day on the Nissequogue River. Photo from the Nissequogue River State Park Foundation
“Paddling is a great way to enjoy the outdoors and exercise at the same time. The county is committed to working with residents to add to the enjoyment of the experience.” The survey will help identify existing and potential launch sites throughout the county’s more than 1,000 miles of waterfront and develop a wish list to improve the sites for water access. “Paddlers have long enjoyed Suffolk’s scenic waters, and we want to make it easier for residents and visitors to learn how to take advantage of the magnificent waterways we have available to us while doing it in a safe and
fun way,” said county Legislator Kara Hahn (D-Setauket). The origins of a countywide blueway trail date back three years ago, when Hahn was developing a similar plan for her North Shore district. In June 2016, Hahn sponsored bipartisan legislation authorizing the county to pursue state funding, which resulted in the award of a $60,000 grant. “It is an exciting next step,” she said. “I grew up in Stony Brook, and there’s nothing like being out in the water.” Once priority sites have been identified, Suffolk County will work with the various municipalities
to identify funding sources for specific project improvements and develop a management, communication and marketing plan. Hahn said the trail would help drive new opportunities for tourism and benefit the local economy. “We are looking for inexpensive ways for residents to access the shoreline,” she said. The trail would provide suggested routes depending on skill level, locations of features such as rest stops, scenic locations, birdwatching and amenities including restrooms, concessions, nearby businesses and parking. It will also include signage to help paddlers find launch locations and provide information such as maps, environmental educational information and safety information. Though the first phase of the plan is underway, Hahn said this will be a long planning process that could take a few years. She said it depends on how much funding they can get as they will need to reapply for more grants as well as fixing and preparing the launch sites to be used as part of the blueway trail. For residents who want to contribute to the blueway trail survey visit, www.arcg. is/1KyPDq.
Stony Brook University opens new clean water research facility BY DAVID LUCES DLUCES@TBRNEWSMEDIA.COM A new research facility at Stony Brook University aims to develop innovative technologies in the fight to improve the quality of water on Long Island and help rid nitrogen in wastewater in an effort to protect drinking water. On July 9, the New York State Center for Clean Water Technology at SBU officially opened the new research site named the Wastewater Research & Innovation Facility. The WRIF will have nitrogen-removing technologies to clean wastewater. The new facility is situated close to a county wastewater pumping station. “We all know how important water is to Long Island, we know our only source of drinking water is below our feet,” said Chris Gobler, director, NYS Center for Clean Water Technology. “This facility is designed to bring the next generation of nitrogen reducing and removing biofilters [also called NRBs] that will be smaller and more effective and more widespread.” The WRIF’s main area is a trailer full of nitrogen-removing biofilters made up of two levels: a layer of sand on top and a layer of wood chips on the bottom. Wastewater flows
down, and each layer take out the nitrogen as it goes through. “Our focus is to take what we have installed in the field, these NRBs and make them smaller and want to make it more affordable,” said Frank Russo, associate director for wastewater initiatives, NYS Center for Clean Water Technology. “The only way we can do that on a scale like this is to do experiments first in a set environment and test all the theories we find in our research.” There are 22 SBU students and researchers on staff at the new facility. A secondary trailer on the property allows them to conduct experiments and research at a test tube level. The endgame of those experiments is to eventually install these filters in homes and businesses, so it can help reduce nitrogen pollution. Russo said it will take a five-year process before they go full scale. He stated that it is a county requirement that before anything is to be installed, you have to show the county that it is a proven technology, and it will last a long time. The associate director hopes these filters along with a home septic system will one day take the place of a cesspool. The opening of the new facility, comes a year after the center installed three prototype
filters in homes throughout Long Island. The center has also been busy with other projects, including constructing a wetland in Cold Spring Harbor that is designed to treat wastewater and nitrogen levels. Gobler stressed the need for reducing nitrogen pollution, stating that nearly 75 percent of Suffolk homes are not connected to a sewage system. The problem arises when the nitrogen-contaminated wastewater is stored into cesspools or outdated septic systems. “The center is going to help address and solve the nitrogen problem on Long Island, but perhaps across the country and maybe even around the world,” said Carrie Meek-Gallagher, regional director of the NYS Department of Environmental Conservation. In 2017, the county began urging residents to make the switch to new, updated septic systems under the Suffolk County Septic Improvement Program with the help of grants. As of July 1, Suffolk County residents who voluntarily decide to replace their cesspools will need to replace them with a system consisting of a septic tank and leaching pool at a minimum, according to a June 20 TBR News Media article. Contractors will need to register the system with the Department of Health Services. While residents can choose a conventional septic system, another option
The inside of the NYS Center for Clean Water Technology at Stony Brook University Photo by David Luces
is an advanced device that removes more nitrogen. County grants of up to $20,000 are available for residents who qualify. There is also an additional state grant of up to $10,000, which can mean a total of up to $30,000.