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Mastic-Shirley chamber president honored for smart move with sewers

Beth Wahl, president of the Mastic-Shirley Chamber of

Beth Wahl, president of the Mastic-Shirley Chamber of Commerce, and an honoree at the 18th annual LI Smart Growth Awards In Woodbury on Friday. Photo Credit: Howard Schnapp

The president of the Mastic-Shirley Chamber of Commerce was among those honored Friday at an annual luncheon in Woodbury for her efforts to bring sewers to the community.

Beth Wahl, 75, of Mastic, along with three others, were recognized for their work on the Forge River Watershed Project, which will provide sewers to businesses and homes along the Forge River.

“They had plans, for years, to redevelop the downtown area. They knew they needed sewers and they lobbied for those dollars. Then they had to sell the idea to their neighbors,” said Eric Alexander, president of Vision Long Island, a smart-growth group that organized the luncheon. "And, the referendum passed in January with 85 percent of the votes."

This year’s honorees, Alexander said, provided the leadership necessary to rebuild Long Island’s downtowns and invest in other projects, including affordable housing and transportation.

The 18th annual Long Island Smart Growth Awards luncheon, held at the Crest Hollow Country Club, drew hundreds of people.

The awards were given to individuals and projects in several categories that included environment and water, affordable housing and transportation.

The Long Island Rail Road third-track expansion project, which aims to ease the commutes of a half-million LIRR riders, was honored in the transportation category. 

The Forge River Watershed Project won in the environment and water category.

The $191.3 million project along the river in Mastic and Shirley includes construction of a new sewage treatment plant at Brookhaven Calabro Airport.

Nearly 2,770 residential parcels and businesses, along with a commercial corridor near Montauk Highway, would be connected initially. Eventually, the treatment plant would allow connections for an additional 10,500 residential units.

The initial project would reduce nitrogen pollution in the river by 193 pounds per day, a 14.4 percent reduction from homes in the watershed. That accounts for additional nitrogen from treated effluent that will be recharged into the ground at the new treatment plant.

Property owners would pay $470 a year. Construction would start in July 2020 and be completed in July 2025.

Wahl said she has worked on bringing sewers to her community since 2002, but she said elected officials at every levels of government — town, county, and state governments — told her there was no money.

Then came superstorm Sandy. Federal lawmakers approved tens of billion of dollars, including money for “coastal resiliency” projects. Suddenly, Wahl said, sewers were a real possibility.

Wahl talked to her neighbors and visited all the local business owners to drum up support, urging them to call and write letters to elected officials.

“I furnished them with all addresses and names — from federal officials down to dog catchers — anybody we could think of who would, maybe, give us money.”

Wahl said she was thrilled to be among the honorees.

"I am very happy," said Wahl.

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