Southampton Town Supervisor Anna Throne-Holst's chief of staff will depart Town Hall this month to lead a Stony Brook University think tank aimed at solving Long Island's wastewater problems, the supervisor said Saturday.
Jennifer Garvey, a close aide to the supervisor for six years, will leave her post on Oct. 16 to become director of the New York State Center for Clean Water Technology, Throne-Holst said.
She and Garvey successfully lobbied the state last year for $3 million to launch the institute, which Throne-Holst said she envisioned as the "Silicon Valley of wastewater infrastructure."
Its scientists will be developing the next generation of on-site wastewater systems to replace the outdated septic systems cited as a major cause of water pollution in Suffolk County, Throne-Holst said.
"It will be the attraction for everyone working on wastewater technology worldwide," the supervisor said .
Garvey could not immediately be reached for comment Saturday.
Throne-Holst announced Garvey's departure at a Montauk forum hosted by the environmental group Concerned Citizens of Montauk. At the forum, East End residents and officials discussed the challenges posed by water pollution, sea-level rise and climate change.
Officials at the Montauk gathering, including Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone and East Hampton Town Supervisor Larry Cantwell, stressed the need for new-age septic systems in Suffolk, where an estimated 70 percent of homes are not connected to sewers.
"Water is everything to us in this region," Bellone said. "Literally, it's our quality of life, our heritage, our recreation, our economy. The water we drink is beneath our feet."
Scientists blame the proliferation of septic systems in Suffolk for leaking nitrogen into Long Island's waterways, feeding algal blooms that have grown more frequent over the past decade, and devastating marine ecosystems.
Officials say new-age septic systems could help stem the pollution on the East End, which lacks the population densities to justify the cost of sewers.
Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo's office, in a news release last year, said the Stony Brook center "will establish New York State as a global leader in this industry as this technology could help communities on Long Island, across the nation and around the world address this issue."
Throne-Holst said in an interview Saturday that the center also will study public policy and financing issues related to wastewater infrastructure. Technology developed there, she said, could be used in communities facing problems similar to Long Island's.
"All the built-out coastal regions of the world are dealing with this problem," she said. "And no one, as I like to say, has cracked the nut on it."
Throne-Holst herself is departing Town Hall at the end of the year to seek the Democratic nomination to run for Congress in 2016. She said she may serve on an advisory board for the institute.