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Ways to improve Northport Harbor's water proposed

Dredging three harbors, installing catch basins, restocking shellfish beds, and using computer modeling to identify pollution sources were among a range of solutions proposed Wednesday by a committee charged with creating a plan to improve water quality in Northport Harbor.

The committee of municipal, federal and state agency representatives, as well as concerned citizens, unveiled a draft proposal Wednesday with short-, medium- and long-term goals and solutions.

Adrienne Esposito, committee co-chair and executive director of the advocacy group Citizens Campaign for the Environment, said the three main contributors to the harbor's water quality are stormwater runoff, leaking septic systems and effluent from the Northport sewage treatment plant.

"The good news is we do know how to fix the problems, it's not rocket science," Esposito said. "The bad news is it's going to cost a lot of money, but that's why we have this committee - to work together with federal and state agencies to bring money to this problem to get it fixed and solved."

The action plan suggests developing uniform regulations to end illegal discharges in all participating municipalities; studying and implementing infrastructure upgrades, including Northport sewer lines and outfall pipes where needed; dredging Northport, Duck Island and Centerport harbors; controlling stormwater runoff by installing catch basins and drain inserts on Beach Plum Drive in Centerport and Valley Grove Beach in Eatons Neck, among other locations; restocking shellfish beds; and developing a computer model of stormwater runoff to identify pollution sources and creating a hydrodynamic model of Northport Harbor to understand how dredging will impact tidal flow and circulation.

Upgrading the Northport sewage treatment plant could cost as much as $14 million, committee members said.

"This was an opportunity to hear directly from officials," said Julian Varrichio of Asharoken, one of about three dozen people who attended the meeting. "You hear they are doing this and doing that, but you really don't have a clear understanding. This was an opportunity to ask questions face-to-face."

Huntington Town Supervisor Frank Petrone, committee co-chair, said it will take public suggestions, including adding an education component on what the public can do to help keep the water clean, and then set priorities for solutions and "realistically" look at funding sources. "There are solutions that are readily created while others are going to take more planning and dollars and we know dollars are scarce," he said.

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