Many of Suffolk County’s rivers, estuaries, and bays are impaired as a result high levels of nitrogen emanating from residential septic systems and cesspools. The Sisters of St. Joseph are attempting to improve the sewage disposable system at our facility in a cost-efficient sustainable manner while reducing the nitrogen threat to the groundwater.
Wastewater Management Inititative
Many of Suffolk County’s rivers, estuaries, and bays are impaired as a result high levels of nitrogen emanating from residential septic systems and cesspools. The Sisters of St. Joseph are attempting to improve the sewage disposable system at our facility in a cost-efficient sustainable manner while reducing the nitrogen threat to the groundwater. The sewage disposal system on the Brentwood property is a 50-year-old+ system. Acceptable modeling indicates that nitrogen would most likely infiltrate from the system into the groundwater. Utilizing a grant the Sisters of St. Joseph received from the Long Island Community Foundation, a study of alternative sewage treatment options for the Brentwood campus was conducted and evaluated the requirements for replacing the existing on site wastewater treatment system with Innovative/Alternative wastewater treatment systems. The proposed project will address a threatening environmental issue prevalent in Suffolk County and the region as whole.
Current Wastewater Management
Suffolk County has recently published its final “2015 Suffolk County Comprehensive Water Resources Management Plan” (Suffolk County Department of Health). The plan indicates the following:
- Many of the County’s rivers, estuaries and bays are impaired as a result of eutrophication. Nitrogen, which primarily emanates from residential septics and cesspools…….is a principal culprit that spur hypoxia, harmful algal blooms, diminution of sea and shellfisheries and the degradation of the county’s protective natural infrastructure-wetlands and seagrass beds, and a threat to the public water supply emanating from underground aquifers where it is stored.
- As a result of excess coliform bacteria and nitrogen, many of the water bodies surrounding Suffolk County have been classified as “impaired” by the NYS Department of Environmental Conservation.
Nitrogen Pollution on Long Island
An example of the impact of nitrogen pollution cited in the study is its effect on the Great South Bay where at one time supplied half of the clams eaten in the US. Over the past quarter century, the clam harvest in the Great South Bay has fallen 93%, destroying an industry which once accounted for 6,000 jobs. There has been an 18-36% loss of tidal wetlands between 1974 and 2001. The New York Seagrass Taskforce estimates that 200,000 acres of seagrass in Long Island’s bays have shrunk by nearly 90% to 22,000 acres.
Lastly, nitrogen pollution is having an impact in the groundwater. The plan cites that while 83% of all community supply wells had nitrogen concentrations less than or equal to 6mg/l in 2013, there were large changes in nitrogen levels in all of Suffolk County’s groundwater aquifers. Nitrate concentration in the Upper Glacial aquifer rose by over 40% between 1987 and 2013 while levels in the deeper Magothy aquifer, rose by over 80%.