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Heartland sewer hookup delayed by Suffolk lawmakers

Heartland Town Square developer Jerry Wolkoff on Monday

Heartland Town Square developer Jerry Wolkoff on Monday in front of a water tower at the former Pilgrim State Psychiatric Hospital in Brentwood. Credit: Newsday / David M. Schwartz

Suffolk County lawmakers voted Monday to delay an agreement that would allow Heartland Town Square to hook up to the Southwest Sewer District after concerns surfaced about the project’s potential to draw down Long Island’s aquifers.

About a dozen residents and environmental activists spoke against the project during a meeting of the county legislature’s Public Works Committee in Riverhead.

Several argued that the planned 9,000-unit development, with 3.2 million square feet of office space and 1 million square feet of retail space, should build its own sewage treatment plant.

Suffolk County estimates the development would generate 2.5 million gallons of wastewater per day that would be treated at the Bergen Point Sewage Treatment Plant before being pumped out to the Atlantic Ocean. Some speakers advocated that the county require a new sewage treatment plant, which would recharge treated wastewater back into the ground.

Developer Jerry Wolkoff said that without a connection to the Southwest Sewer District, the project won’t be built.

“I won’t develop it unless it’s hooked up to the Southwest Sewer District,” Wolkoff said Monday in an interview in his Brentwood office.

Karen Blumer, vice president of the environmental group Open Space Council, said Heartland would draw down the aquifer and cause impacts such as saltwater intrusion.

“The Legislature must make a decision that could make a critical difference to an already beleaguered aquifer,” Blumer told the committee.

The committee voted unanimously to table a resolution that would allow Heartland to pay a one-time connection fee of $15 per gallon on the first 1.6 million gallons of daily sewage flow, and the current rate of $30 per gallon on the remaining flow.

Wolkoff also has applied to reduce the discounted $15-per-gallon fee to $7.50.

The developer received conceptual approval in 2004 from the county before it raised the rates. Wolkoff also says the project will use less water than the county calculates: 1.6 million gallons per day when fully built out.

Legis. Kevin McCaffrey (R-Lindenhurst), who represents the area that includes the project, said taxpayers in the sewer district paid to expand the plant. “If someone wants to connect to that plant, it should be $30 per gallon,” he said. “It’s bad enough that we’re taking everyone’s effluent. We shouldn’t have to pay for the privilege of doing it.”

Legis. Al Krupski (D-Cutchogue), Public Works Committee chairman, said he has requested county staff to prepare more information on the effect of the project on groundwater and the capacity of the plant to remove nitrogen.

Wolkoff said the project would produce jobs, tax revenue and housing for seniors and millennials.

“It would be an injustice because it’s something that’s a necessity on Long Island,” Wolkoff said.

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