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Northport vets hospital touts energy conversion

National Grid has helped the Northport Veterans Affairs Medical Center complete a transition from heating oil to natural gas -- in what officials tout as the largest conversion on Long Island in more than a decade.

"We're going to save roughly $1 million a year," Northport VA's director, Philip C. Moschitta, said last week. "That translates back into our medical center, which means that I can then spend it on the patients."

Federal, state, local officials and National Grid representatives gathered at the VA on Friday to discuss the conversion and to tour the boiler plant.

National Grid began preparing for the change of the boiler plant at the 268-acre medical center complex 10 years ago. Easements from Suffolk County and Huntington and a permit from the Long Island Rail Road were issued, and construction started in 2011, including installing a 9,000-foot-long gas main. The conversion, completed in April, should help the VA meet its energy and environmental mandates for federal facilities, officials said.

"It really is a win for the environment. It makes a cleaner Long Island," Ken Daly, president of National Grid New York, said. "The fact that veterans are the ultimate beneficiaries means a lot to us."

About 6,000 tons of greenhouse emissions will be eliminated each year, officials said. Adrienne Esposito, executive director of the Citizens Campaign for the Environment, said the project helps reduce carbon monoxide, nitrogen oxide and sulfur dioxide emissions, "which means less greenhouse gases . . . and less nitrogen being deposited into the Long Island Sound."

The project's total cost was about $3.5 million, $2 million of which National Grid is covering using future revenue. The VA will pay the rest. The VA center will still be able to burn fuel stored on-site, but the conversion will allow officials to decrease reserves, officials said.

The VA has a hospital, community living center, and home, with a total of 293 beds. Last year, the VA treated 34,273 veterans and performed 392,635 outpatient visits.

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