Suffolk Executive Bellone announces $100M investment to improve water quality
Suffolk Executive Steve Bellone marked this Earth Day by announcing a historic $100 million investment to improve water quality.
Bellone says $30 million from state, local and federal government will be added to an existing grant program that helps residents pay to replace older septic systems with newer nitrogen reducing ones.
"This $30 million in new funding is going to help thousands of additional homeowners, to be able to participate in this septic improvement program," he says.
The IRS does consider that grant money taxable income. Bellone says he's working with the Long Island congressional delegation to get that changed.
"The idea that we would be taxing that money, which is just improving water quality for the entire region, I think is terrible. It's wrong, it's bad policy," Bellone says.
Bellone also announced that $70 million would go to the Suffolk County Coastal Resiliency Initiative to help pay for sewer improvements along the Carlls River in Wyandanch and the Forge River in Babylon.
Environmentalists say this will help reduce the increasing number of algae blooms and fish die-offs in our waters.
"Our hope is we'll know we are successful when we see a lot less of that and we'll know we're successful when we see none at all," says Kevin McDonald of the Nature Conservancy.
Stacey Selles enjoys her walks along Lake Ronkonkoma and around other bodies of water on Long Island. But over the years she's see the water quality degrade.
"You see that rusty color, black muck all over, it's really not good," Selles says.
Environmentalists say part of that is from excess nitrogen leaching into bodies of water and ground water from septic systems. Suffolk officials say the funding announced Thursday aims to address issues like that.
Rep. Tom Suozzi and Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand say they're trying to get that excess tax on septic improvements removed.