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Suffolk lottery winners will get system to remove nitrogen from wastewater, Bellone says

Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone speaks at the

Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone speaks at the 2nd annual Long Island Water Quality Symposium in Bethpage on Oct. 10, 2014. Photo Credit: Ed Betz

About 19 single-family homeowners in Suffolk could win a lottery to receive an advanced wastewater treatment system, County Executive Steve Bellone said Friday.

Homeowners would get free installation, monitoring and maintenance of the septic system for five years. The county would pilot the program as part of its attempt to stem nitrogen-polluted waters by using sewers and wastewater systems.

Seventy percent of Suffolk homes are on septic systems.

"Advanced wastewater treatment systems . . . for single-family homes will undoubtedly be an important part of addressing the water-quality crisis," Bellone said at the second annual Long Island Water Quality Symposium, held at Carlyle on the Green at Bethpage State Park in Farmingdale.

Suffolk officials said they plan to provide lottery details next week. Private companies will donate the treatment systems, which remove nitrogen from wastewater.

High concentrations of nitrogen threaten drinking water, damage tidal wetlands and salt marches and harm bays and rivers around Long Island, Suffolk officials have said.

Bellone has made stopping nitrogen pollution from septic tanks and cesspools his top priority this year.

A Bellone spokesman said the treatment systems, if successful, will be approved to be installed in more Suffolk homes.

"This problem was created over many decades" and a long-term sustained commitment was needed to address the problem, Bellone said at the conference.

More than 270 people, including Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.), attended. Panelists spoke on such topics as the state of Long Island's drinking water and high nitrogen levels.

Schumer has helped secure at least $400 million in federal storm recovery money for wastewater projects intended to protect the area from future storms by reducing nitrogen levels.

He said Nassau has received its share of the grants from the Department of Housing and Urban Development -- $150 million -- to rebuild the Bay Park Sewage Treatment Plant.

But Suffolk awaits $300 million for sewer projects, Schumer said. "Today I am calling on the state to get the money to us quickly."

"The State is working closely with Suffolk County to strengthen storm resiliency and improve water quality on Long Island, including finding solutions for this important wastewater treatment issue," Barbara Brancaccio of NYRising said in an email Friday night.

Bellone is seeking $750 million in storm recovery money to extend sewers to 12,000 homes along the South Shore and another $242 million to replace an outflow from the Bergen Point Sewage Treatment Plant.

James F. Gaughran, chairman of the Suffolk County Water Authority, said heavily populated areas, like Mastic Beach and Ronkonkoma, need either new sewage treatment systems or to be connected to an existing system. But communities can't afford to pay for the projects.

"So, we're going to have to get outside funding from the federal or state government but also . . . we're going to have to look to the private sector, including developers who're willing to step forward," Gaughran told attendees.

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