Assemb. Steve Englebright (D-Setauket) has proposed an ambitious alternative to a possible sewage treatment plant in northeastern Smithtown, as town officials’ concerns over stalled sewering plans took on new urgency.
Officials for Smithtown and Gyrodyne, the former defense contractor that proposes to develop its 62-acre property near Route 25A, have said a sewage treatment plant planned there could serve downtown St. James and a hotel and assisted living facility planned there.
“They’re talking about putting high-nitrate effluent into groundwater” that runs into environmentally sensitive Stony Brook Harbor, Englebright said in an interview last week. An alternative, he said, would be to transfer development rights from Gyrodyne to the former Kings Park Psychiatric Center while continuing to search for a site for a plant to treat St. James and downtown Smithtown.
Smithtown Supervisor Edward Wehrheim said last week that the town has evaluated and rejected several alternate sites for a St. James-Smithtown treatment plant.
Town spokeswoman Nicole Garguilo said, "We're sympathetic to his environmental concerns, but it should be noted that the private project as well as the whole Gyrodyne campus is zoned industrial" and is located outside of the deepwater recharge zone for the harbor.
Officials for Gyrodyne and New York State Parks did not comment.
Wehrheim and other Smithtown officials appear increasingly concerned over a planned Kings Park sewer system. That project has been stalled for months, awaiting New York State Assembly approval to convey a parcel of land for a critical pump station from the town to Suffolk County, a process known as alienation. The county would build and maintain the system.
“We are in crisis,” the council wrote in a letter prepared to be sent this week to Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie, asking to put the transfer to a floor vote. “Our small mom-and-pop business districts require wastewater management infrastructure to survive.”
Adding to the urgency, town and civic officials said, is a May 2 letter that the Environmental Protection Agency sent to a Kings Park commercial property owner threatening fines of up to $286,586 for operating a banned large-capacity cesspool. It is not clear how many property owners might be operating similar cesspools.
Smithtown officials have in recent weeks approved appraisal of a small parcel in Kings Park where they could locate the pump station should the alienation not go to a vote.
Deputy Supervisor Thomas McCarthy said the possible purchase “allows us not to be held hostage by Assemblyman Englebright.”
Englebright said he had not stalled the transfer of land.
“They give me powers that I don’t have,” he said.