Suffolk County, Shelter Island Announce Partnership on Clean Water Project

Shelter Island. Cully/EEFAS
Shelter Island. Photo credit: Cully/EEFAS

Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone announced a proposed intermunicipal agreement between Suffolk County and the Town of Shelter Island to help protect and improve water quality in the Peconic Estuary by replacing the existing on-site sanitary systems at Shelter Island’s Town Legion Hall and Youth Center with an advanced nitrogen-reducing wastewater treatment system.

“The installation of advanced wastewater treatment systems is a vital part of the solution to our nitrogen pollution crisis here in Suffolk County,” Bellone said. “I thank the Town of Shelter Island for their partnership on improving and protecting our water quality.”

“As residents of an island in the middle of the Peconic Estuary, Shelter Islanders are acutely aware of the severe nitrogen pollution crisis on the East End,” said Shelter Island Town Supervisor Jim Dougherty. “The time to act is now and we deeply appreciate Suffolk County’s partnership with us in installing this innovative septic system which sharply reduces nitrogen loading.”

Nitrogen seeps into the ground from septic systems and cesspools and can ultimately impact local surface waters. Elevated levels of nitrogen contribute to conditions conducive to the emergence of harmful algal blooms in Suffolk County waterways such as the Peconic Estuary, which surrounds Shelter Island. The Peconic Estuary is one of 28 federally designated estuaries of national significant by the United States Environmental Protection Agency.

In addition to mitigating nitrogen pollution in the estuary, the proposed septic upgrade project is intended to demonstrate the feasibility of employing alternative on-site sanitary disposal systems in other locations on Shelter Island and throughout Suffolk County.

The demonstration project will also include public outreach and education components as the Shelter Island Legion Hall and Youth Center serves numerous community groups and members of the public.

Suffolk County will contribute up to $49,500 towards the project through existing funds in the Suffolk County Water Quality Protection and Restoration Program. The program’s award allows the Town of Shelter Island to be reimbursed for one-half of the project’s cost.

A resolution allowing Suffolk County to enter into this agreement will be voted on by the Suffolk County Legislature on September 9, 2015.

The Shelter Island Legion Hall and Recreation Center wastewater treatment system upgrade is project is the latest part of Bellone’s Reclaim Our Water initiative, which includes the securing of nearly $400 million in funding for the largest expansion of sewers in Suffolk County since the 1970s, and the release of the 2015 Suffolk County Comprehensive Water Resources Management Plan that provides critical recommendations on how to manage and protect the region’s water supply.

For more information on the County’s Reclaim Our Water initiative, visit

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