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Steve Bellone previews Suffolk’s pollution-cutting efforts

Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone at a news

Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone at a news conference Wednesday, June 1, 2016, about wastewater system improvements. He said he wants to encourage the use of pollution-cutting wastewater systems at Long Island homes. Credit: Newsday / Will James

Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone has said he wants to encourage the use of pollution-cutting wastewater systems at Long Island homes.

On Wednesday, he sought to set an example by unveiling the first such system at a county facility.

The $348,000 commercial system at Meschutt Beach County Park in Hampton Bays went online Friday, just before crowds descended on the park’s bayfront bar and restaurant on Memorial Day weekend.

“We are leading by example here in Suffolk County,” Bellone said at a news conference at the park, adding that the new system would “significantly reduce the environmental impact” of waste on nearby Peconic Bay.

The Orenco AX-MAX device filters nitrogen out of waste to a concentration of 19 milligrams per liter, less than half the concentration released by a common septic system.

Nitrogen leaking from Suffolk’s 360,000 household septic systems is blamed for algal blooms that have devastated marine life off Long Island. Bellone has called the issue his No. 1 priority and has sought the expansion of sewers and the adoption of high-tech household systems to address it.

In April, he proposed a water protection surcharge of $1 per 1,000 gallons of water consumed in the county to support nitrogen-removal efforts. He is seeking state legislation allowing a November referendum on the fee, but faces opposition from Senate majority leader John Flanagan (R-East Northport).

“This is about the future of Suffolk County,” Bellone said. “This is about the future of Long Island.”

Suffolk officials have installed 19 smaller high-tech systems at homes across the county as part of a test program. Installation of residential systems, estimated to cost $10,000 to $24,000 each, could be subsidized with the water surcharge, county officials have said.

Suffolk water quality czar Peter Scully said officials are waiting to amass six months of data on the effectiveness of the systems before approving them for residential use. The last test system was installed in April.

Meschutt’s former septic system overflowed last summer. Southampton Town Supervisor Jay Schneiderman, then a county legislator, brought the issue to Bellone’s attention. The new system has been relocated higher above the groundwater and farther from Peconic Bay.

Schneiderman on Wednesday called it “remarkable” that the system was studied, selected and installed in less than a year.

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