Calls for action on LI water quality ring clear at hearing

The public meeting is being held at the Rogers Legislative Building.

The public meeting is being held at the Rogers Legislative Building. (9/12/16)

SMITHTOWN - State legislators held a long-awaited hearing on Long Island's water quality Monday, and local officials and environmentalists called for swift action.

Many attendees agreed that the main goal is to reduce the nitrogen that's contaminating local groundwater, lakes and bays. Experts say the source of the nitrogen is Long Island's hundreds of thousands of aging, private septic systems, along with excess fertilizers that are applied to lawns and grounds.

Several speakers at the hearing called on state lawmakers to enact new restrictions on nitrogen pollution.

"An islandwide restriction is essential," says Dick Amper, of the Pine Barrens Society. "Somebody has to make us do it, and it has to be state law."

"Ultimately I hope the state takes some strong action and ratchets down the amount of nitrogen that can leave development, and the only way to do that is through stringent standards,” said Kevin McCallister, of Defend H20.

Many different opinions and proposals were floated at the hearing on how to deal with Long Island's degrading water quality. But all agreed that steps must be taken soon.

"We need to act. We have watched our water quality, both our surface water and groundwater degrade," said Brookhaven Town Supervisor Ed Romaine.

"This problem is not going to be solved overnight, but we need to make progress each and every year," said Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone.

All testimony reviewed at the meeting will be reviewed and used in January when lawmakers discuss policy during the next Legislative session.

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