Westhampton Beach is considering creating the village’s first sewer district, which elected officials and environmental experts say could provide economic and environmental benefits for the village.
The Westhampton Beach Village Board of Trustees held public informational presentations on the proposal at its regular meeting on Sept. 5.
According to Mayor Maria Moore, the village has been discussing the potential sewer connection with Suffolk County officials in the past year. A sewer district would allow the village to connect to county-owned facilities at Francis S. Gabreski Airport, Moore said.
Village officials are hoping a sewer district would eventually allow businesses to expand, new ones to open and for apartments above existing stores that can’t be occupied without a sewer hook-up to be rented to tenants.
Moore said the proposal is “very exciting. It’s a big step for the village, and one certainly needed to protect water quality and downtown vitality.”
Village officials hired Chris Gobler, a coastal ecology and endowed conservation professor at Stony Brook University School of Marine and Atmospheric Sciences, to conduct a nitrogen loading and mitigation study on the sewer proposal. The report found that high levels of nitrogen detected in the groundwater under the village and flowing into coastal waters contributes to brown tides, poor conditions for fish populations, loss of eelgrass, poor water clarity and other consequences.
“Any effort to reduce the delivery of nitrogen from the Village of Westhampton Beach will help mitigate these conditions,” Gobler stated in the report.
Final costs for setting up the district are still being determined, but Moore said village officials will weigh public feedback on the proposal and research various funding sources — including a $5 million grant program with the state Department of Environmental Conservation — to finance the costs. The board will hold a public hearing on the proposal next month at Village Hall.