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Water worries prompt Babylon to halt Pine Barrens Credits

Long Island's pine barrens include this area near

Long Island's pine barrens include this area near the shuttered Shoreham nuclear power plant. Credit: Randee Daddona

The Town of Babylon is placing a moratorium on any new applications for a program that allows businesses to exceed wastewater limits in exchange for protecting land out east.

The program, which is run by New York State and is known as Pine Barrens Credits, allows for more dense development in other parts of the county while protecting land out east, said Rich Groh, the town’s chief environmental analyst. The program stems from the 1993 state Pine Barrens Act, which was passed to protect the region’s 100,000-acre pine forest — which is in Brookhaven, Riverhead and Southampton towns — and a nearby drinking water aquifer by restricting development.

The Suffolk County Department of Health Services allots businesses a certain amount of wastewater output based on the lot, building sizes and the type of use. If a business wishes to exceed that amount, Groh said, they can do so by paying for Pine Barrens Credits. The development credits are used to compensate pine barrens landowners in the core of the pine barrens since they couldn’t develop their own properties.

The town must approve any requests for the credits, and while they have not gotten many applications, Groh said, the town recently received two submissions. Performax Physical Therapy & Wellness at 150 Bay Shore Rd. in North Babylon is buying 0.58 Pine Barrens Credits for $41,000, according to town records. Stewart Avenue Associates Dialysis, at 860 Grand Blvd. in Deer Park, is purchasing 0.67 credits. Groh said he did not know how much the company is paying for those credits.

While both applications have been approved by town Planning Commissioner Thomas Young, the town wants to halt any further credits until officials study the potential impacts on groundwater, Groh said.

“We just want to make sure in allowing this that it’s not going to get overdone,” he said.

Groh added that the town’s planning and environmental control departments have formed a working group to look at the issue. They will devise recommendations that will then be submitted to the town board for approval.

According to documents provided by the town, from 1996 to 2016 there were 910.64 Pine Barrens Credits sold for a value of $44,135,472, with the average credit costing $48,466.

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