A long-sought sewer connection project in downtown Westhampton Beach that local and state elected officials have touted as eco-friendly and necessary for future economic development is officially underway.
Village representatives and others gathered Friday at the Westhampton Beach Historical Society on Mill Road to announce the groundbreaking on the multimillion-dollar project. Once complete, the village will be able to connect its collection and conveyance system to Suffolk County’s wastewater treatment plant at Frances S. Gabreski Airport in the village.
The estimated project cost will be $11.1 million, while the modifications at the airport-based treatment plant are $4.4 million. Officials have a tentative completion date of September 2022.
Westhampton Beach Mayor Maria Moore said Friday that the sewer project would mesh well when combined with the environmental improvement features of the village’s recently completed Main Street reconstruction project. Those upgrades include permeable pavers, new drainage, LED lighting and hydrodynamic separators, which are used in stormwater treatment. Both projects will go a long way toward improving water quality and "ensuring the economic vitality of our Main Street," Moore said.
"We are one step closer to improving the quality of our waterways and protecting the environment," Moore said.
The project will connect the village’s Main Street business district and two condominium complexes to Suffolk County’s wastewater treatment plant at Gabreski. The sewers are projected to eliminate about 5,000 pounds of nitrogen a year that enter village waterways, a 24% reduction in such waste going into local water, according to a village-commissioned study released in 2017.
Southampton Town Councilman John Bouvier, who grew up in Westhampton Beach, said offloading nitrogen from local water bodies like nearby Moneybogue Bay would be healthy and a great environmental step for the village.
"It’s healthy to remove runoff nitrogen and all the waste products that get into our bays and cause them to be impaired," Bouvier said.
WHAT TO KNOW
- The estimated project cost will be $11.1 million, while the modifications at the airport-based treatment plant will cost $4.4 million.
- Officials have a tentative completion date of September 2022.
- The project will clear the way for more apartments over stores on Main Street, additional restaurants and a small boutique hotel.
- The sewers are projected to eliminate about 5,000 pounds of nitrogen a year that enter village waterways, a 24% reduction.
The sewers will also help the village meet Suffolk County’s sanitary code requirements — which restrict development in the area due to a lack of sewers — and clear the way for more apartments over stores on Main Street, additional restaurants and a small boutique hotel.
Southampton Supervisor Jay Schneiderman said such uses would lead to a "vibrant" downtown for the village. Schneiderman added that connecting the downtown area to sewers was a long time coming, adding that village officials had been discussing creating sewer connectivity for its downtown area "for as long as I can remember."
"It is so complicated, that’s why you don’t see a lot of downtown sewers on the East End," Schneiderman said, noting how complicated the legal aspects and expenses can be for sewer connectivity. "But this village board, this mayor, took this on and never let go."
Efforts have been underway since 2015 to create the sewer project. Westhampton Beach trustee and Deputy Mayor Ralph Urban said getting the work done on the project took many days of emails and late-evening calls through the years. Urban said that Moore was instrumental in pushing for the Main Street sewer hookup and that having it get to this point is "very exciting" for the village.
The village was awarded a $1.7 million grant in December 2019 from the state Environmental Facilities Corp. through the Water Infrastructure Improvement Act, as well as a $5 million grant that same year from the state Department of Environmental Conservation. In addition, $4 million from the Southampton Town Community Preservation Fund in 2020 will go toward the project, according to village officials.
State Assemb. Fred Thiele Jr. (D-Sag Harbor) said that the project would be a "win-win" for both the environment and the local economy and that the collaboration between village, county and state officials on it was "an example of how government should work."
"The water is going to be cleaner, but we’re also going to provide the opportunity for greater economic development for Westhampton Beach in this area," Thiele said.