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Huntington officials seek ban on formaldehyde in boats

The Huntington Town Board is pushing Nassau and Suffolk legislators to ban boaters from using a formaldehyde-based anti-odor treatment on their waste tanks, citing negative effects on the region’s fragile waterways.

Huntington officials voted this month to send both legislatures copies of a resolution calling for the ban.

Suffolk Legis. William Spencer (D-Centerport) said Tuesday that he plans to introduce such a bill in January.

“This is something we need to do,” Spencer said. “It’s a no-brainer.”

Cristina Brennan, deputy director of communications for the Nassau County Legislature, said its counsel is reviewing the resolution, but she declined to say whether the body would consider similar legislation.

The odor-control chemical agents used on boats are called biocides. Many contain formaldehyde, which poses a risk to the region’s waterways, officials said.

When formaldehyde-treated waste is introduced into a sewage treatment plant’s carefully cultivated biotic environment, it can kill the good bacteria that treat the waste, officials said. The result can be a less effective treatment process that diminishes the quality of water being reintroduced into the harbor, officials said.

Huntington upgraded its marine sewage pump-out station last year at the town dock in Halesite — the only one that connects directly to the Huntington Sewage Treatment Plant.

Town Councilwoman Tracey Edwards offered the resolution calling for the two counties to act, because the town lacks authority to ban such products. Board members approved it unanimously Dec 8.

“This is critical legislation,” Edwards said. “And it’s efficient legislation, because there are so many other products that can be used to suppress odors in marine vehicles.”

Edwards said she was “absolutely thrilled” Spencer committed to bringing a proposal before Suffolk lawmakers next month.

Spencer said conversations with Edwards, other town officials and the Greater Huntington Council of Yacht and Boating Clubs — which represents 22 individual clubs in the region — motivated him to act.

Jackie Martin, the yacht club council commodore, said the organization sought the ban on formaldehyde products because of the harm they pose to waterways.

She also said the council hopes a ban would persuade Northport officials to again consider connecting the pump-out station at the Woodbine Marina directly to the village’s sewage treatment plant. Currently, boats at Woodbine empty waste into a tank that town crews must remove by truck.

An effort years ago to connect the Woodbine pump-out station to the Northport plant failed because of concerns about the chemicals, Village Trustee Ian Milligan said.

“The plant is doing very well now and has gone way below the required amounts” of nitrogen discharge, Milligan said. “If this product is banned, then certainly those two things would warrant a re-evaluation of that proposal.”

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