Sewer construction in downtown Kings Park is expected to start in 2021 and to finish in October 2023, work that Smithtown and Suffolk County officials said will disrupt life but pay immense dividends for residents and businesspeople when it is finished.
The $20 million project still needs approvals from county legislators and residents in the service area, said Deputy Suffolk County Executive Peter Scully.
Plans call for 1.5 miles of pipe to be laid underneath Main Street and two nearby roads, rendering obsolete the septic systems that now serve approximately 150 business and residential parcels and a 144-unit co-op apartment complex, Kings Wood community. Work would be done in sections to minimize road closures.
The service area would extend along Main Street from Park Avenue in the west to the Smithtown Parks, Buildings and Grounds facility in the east, and on Church Street from Kings Wood to Stattel Drive, also covering a portion of Meadow Road. Those lines would connect to the county’s Sewer District 6 and a treatment plant on St. Johnland Road.
The New York State-funded sewer project would drastically reduce the nitrates that now leach from the septic system into the ground and into Long Island Sound, Scully said. Sewers would also permit development of new restaurants, apartments and medical offices, he added.
“The long-term benefit of a sewer connection cannot be overstated,” Scully, informally known as the county’s water quality czar, said in an interview last week. “It will provide property owners in the business district much greater flexibility for future uses.”
Scully held up Patchogue as a model for how public investment in sewers and other infrastructure can draw private dollars. Officials and real estate professionals interviewed for a 2018 Long Island Regional Planning Council report said sewers were an “essential” element of the village’s economic growth, which the study’s authors counted at $693 million from 2000 to 2017, with new jobs, businesses and climbing commercial real estate lease rates.
Smithtown planners are formulating new zoning for downtown that would guide the growth sewers are expected to provide, with new rules under consideration for building setbacks, height, architectural standards, signs and lighting stand-alone apartments, town planner Peter Hans said. Draft legislation will be released in the coming weeks, he said.
Sewer hookups, once possible, become mandatory, with costs in Kings Park likely to range from several thousand dollars for residential properties to $10,000 to $15,000 for businesses, Scully said. He said he could not yet estimate the cost for hookup at Kings Wood, whose nine apartment buildings may pose a more complicated engineering problem.
Annual sewer service fees would be additional. Suffolk's residential properties typically pay $500 to $600 in yearly sewer fees, Scully said, with commercial fees varying depending on water usage. County officials are exploring grants to help with the cost of hookups and could also use leftover construction money for that purpose, if the state permits it, Scully said.
Helena Chaves, property manager for the Kings Wood co-ops, said the residents she serves — many of them senior citizens and first-time home buyers — have pushed since 1996 for a sewer hookup to replace the cesspools and leaching fields that cost $18,000 a year to maintain.
“We’re excited but nervous about funding” for the hookup, she said. Her residents “don’t want any assessments. That’s going to cut into their Social Security.”
The sewer agency for Suffolk County, which would build the system, will review designs and could approve the project at its Nov. 18 meeting, Scully said. Officials hope to win approval from county legislators next spring; residents from the service area will also have to vote their assent in a special election.
Christopher Gobler, a coastal ecology and conservation professor at Stony Brook University’s School of Marine and Atmospheric Sciences, said a sewer system is a step toward cleaner drinking water in a county where about 70% of properties — roughly 380,000 — remain unsewered.
Reducing the flow of nitrates from effluent will also help improve the health of water bodies like the Nissequogue River and Long Island Sound, where discharge has contributed to the growth of low oxygen “dead zones.” One of those is directly north of Kings Park in Smithtown Bay.
“It’s exciting to see action taken to address those problems,” Gobler said.