Suffolk eyes plan for water protection fee

News 12 Long Island has learned homeowners would have to pay a surcharge of about $73 a year, according to Newsday.

News 12 Long Island has learned homeowners would have to pay a surcharge of about $73 a year, according to Newsday. (4/25/16)

WOODBURY - Suffolk residents may soon have to pay a new annual surcharge on water in an effort to protect the groundwater.

The county is planning to hold a public referendum in November that would ask voters to approve a water quality protection fee. Officials estimate that a typical household with a family of four would shell out about $73 extra per year.

The money would go toward reducing nitrogen pollution, upgrading cesspools and connecting homes to sewers in an effort to keep Long Island's groundwater and waterways clean.

Only about a quarter of the homes in Suffolk County are connected to sewers. The rest, about 360,000, have cesspools, and County Executive Steve Bellone says that's where the "lion's share" of the nitrogen problem comes from. Experts say many cesspool systems are aging and contribute to groundwater pollution.

Many elected officials, environmentalists and civic groups have signaled support for the measure.

However, some officials, including County Legislator Thomas Barraga, say residents can't afford any new taxes.

"At what point does the little guy get a break here? Every time you turn around, the poor guy that's killing himself gets whacked by something like this," Barraga says.

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