Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone Monday named Peter Scully, a veteran state environmental official, as his $170,000-a-year sewer czar to help administer $383 million in grants to combat the nitrate pollution in bays and groundwater.

Scully, 56, who has served as the $143,000-a-year Long Island regional director of the state Department of Environmental Conservation for nearly 12 years, would be returning to the county as deputy county executive for administration, a job he held when Robert Gaffney was county executive in 2003. A Stony Brook Republican, Scully also has served in key posts in both Islip and Brookhaven.

"The next four years is going to be critical in addressing water issues in the region," Bellone said. "Hiring a top-notch administrator like Peter is going to allow us to make those projects to happen."

Scully's appointment comes as the county is looking to spend $207 million to replace a faulty outfall pipe across the Great South Bay, to expand the Southwest Sewer District east to the Ronkonkoma hub and through Oakdale and Sayville as well as build new sewers in Shirley to protect the Forge River.

Scully, who once headed a 2005 Brookhaven committee aimed at protecting the Forge River, said he knew even then the best way to protect the river was to replace cesspools with wastewater treatment but knew prospects were slim.

"I see this as a historic opportunity to protect water quality in Suffolk County," he said, "and with the leadership of Gov. [Andrew M.] Cuomo, and the working relationship between County Executive Bellone and Brookhaven Supervisor Ed Romaine, I think we may finally be able to get it [the Forge River] done. It's a challenge I relish."

Richard Amper, executive director of the Long Island Pine Barrens Society, called the appointment "good news" for Suffolk.

advertisement | advertise on newsday

"Peter Scully is one of those rare public officials who wants to get something done," he said. "His appointment increases our confidence level that Bellone genuinely means to do something about improving water quality."

Scully would become the third Republican that Bellone, who is facing re-election in November, has hired to a high-level position in the past three months. Earlier he named administration aide Barry Paul to fill the vacancy of treasurer when Angie Carpenter left to become Islip supervisor. He also named former Long Island Rail Road official Vincent Mezzanotte to head the county Information Technology office.

Legis. Kevin McCaffrey (R-Lindenhurst) called Scully well qualified, but questioned whether the county can afford to hire a new high-priced deputy at a time when it is facing a $176 million shortfall.

If Bellone wants a new deputy, McCaffrey said, he should eliminate another post. "It has to be cost neutral," he said, "We're losing all the savings from consolidating treasurer and comptroller."