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County votes to help fund project to clean Stony Brook Creek

Advocates say pollution from storm-water runoff has led

Advocates say pollution from storm-water runoff has led to vegetation overgrowth in Stony Brook Creek. Photo Credit: Morgan Campbell

The Suffolk County Legislature has voted to fund half of a $503,000 project to install new drainage systems designed to divert storm-water runoff from Stony Brook Creek.

The legislature on Wednesday voted 17-0, with one member not present, to allocate $251,526 to the project, which is to be built by crews hired by the Brookhaven Town Highway Department. Construction is expected to start this winter and be completed by summer 2021.

Advocates of the plan say it will improve water quality in Stony Brook Creek, which has become dangerously polluted from decades of storm-water runoff from local streets. As part of the project, four existing outfall pipes that feed runoff into the creek, a tributary of Stony Brook Harbor, will be disconnected.

The Brookhaven Town Board voted earlier this year to install the new drainage system. County officials agreed to use funds from Suffolk's water quality protection program to match Brookhaven's $251,000 allocation for the project.

Legis. Kara Hahn (D-Setauket), who sponsored the bill, said funding the project was a “really important step to take to keep Stony Brook Creek from [being polluted by] the runoff. There’s all sorts of discharge that’s part of runoff. This will have a very big impact on the water quality.

“Blue-green algae has been in the duck pond there. It’s certainly a concern to local residents. I’m really happy with the timing of this. I’m really happy to help the town with the responsibility to deal with the runoff and do it responsibly.”

Brookhaven officials have said new drain pipes will be installed along town-owned rights of way and in a town parking lot to carry runoff to existing bioretention areas, such as wetlands. The marshes will naturally filter sediment from the runoff and disperse it throughout the ecosystem, officials said.

The current system, installed decades ago, had deposited silt into the creek, where it caused turbidity and led to vegetation growing in the shallow waters. The creek crosses land owned by the county and town, as well as private properties such as parcels owned by the nonprofit Ward Melville Heritage Organization, which manages historic sites in Stony Brook.

Gloria Rocchio, the heritage organization's president, said the improved drainage would help restore the creek. She added that the creek was instrumental in Stony Brook's history, noting that the original logo of Stony Brook University included images of stones and a river.

“We know that it’s going to be a long road, but we are looking forward to working with the county and the town to get this done and start saving this creek,” Rocchio said.

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