A team of six IBM employees began pro-bono consulting work Monday to help Suffolk County address nitrogen in surface water and groundwater.

The consultants will help identify areas to upgrade to sewer lines or smaller wastewater systems and develop financing mechanisms to pay for it, said Sarah Lansdale, Suffolk County director of planning.

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Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone made the announcement at a packed conference room in the H. Lee Dennison building, with the six consultants from North Carolina, Florida, England, Switzerland and the Czech Republic. Their backgrounds include water technology, engineering and data analysis.

Suffolk was awarded the work for the next three weeks as part of the IBM Smarter Cities Challenge, an international competition between municipalities. Suffolk was one of 14 municipalities selected worldwide this year and one of four in the United States, said Ari Fishkind, an IBM spokesman. Suffolk was the only county selected. IBM estimates the value of its Suffolk consulting work at $500,000. In past years, IBM has performed consulting work for Syracuse on housing and Buffalo on workforce development. This is the fourth year of the grantprogram.

Lansdale said the county has been working for weeks preparing data for the consultants to analyze.