MINEOLA - The first of a series of meetings aimed at ensuring Long Island will have a clean and pristine water supply for generations to come was held in Mineola Monday.

The meetings are a part of Gov. Andrew Cuomo's review of what needs to be done on Long Island to improve water quality and protect the groundwater. Environmentalists say the time is now.

Dick Amper of the Long Island Pine Barrens Society says Long Island’s drinking and surface water is in a 200 percent decline in quality over the past 15 years.

Experts blame a high level of nitrogen in the bays from sewage treatment plants, septic systems and lawn fertilizers. Environmental groups and residents in attendance at the meeting pushed for the construction of a new outfall pipe from Bay Park Wastewater Treatment Plant. The pipe would take treated sewage and dump it into the ocean rather than the bays. 

Although the state has secured $810 million to repair and upgrade the facility, there is much more needed to cover the cost of the project.

"It's going to be very expensive. I think we can make an argument over time that it will be less expensive for an ocean outfall than it would be to repair plants as is," said Joe Martens, of the state Department of Environmental Conservation.

Robert Weltner, of Operation Splash, says without the outfall pipe, the nitrogen pollution is going to continue to erode marshlands, which are a natural defense against coastal storm surges and kill off the wildlife that lives in the area.

The next meeting will be held on May 20 at Stony Brook University.