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Great River’s loss of sewer money is Oakdale’s gain

Janice Mc Govern, right, principal civil engineer for

Janice Mc Govern, right, principal civil engineer for Suffolk County, explains the proposed sewer expansion at a public meeting in East Islip on Jan. 16. Credit: Jessica Rotkiewicz

The public referendum on Suffolk County sewer expansion that was wisely embraced by voters in several communities last month was rejected by residents in Great River, who seem to have been influenced in part by a disinformation campaign. Of greater import, the $26.4 million slated to connect 474 homes to sewers was left in limbo. County officials needed permission from state and federal officials to repurpose the money.

Now Suffolk’s plans for that part of the South Shore are back on track with Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo’s announcement that the money will be used to begin to connect Oakdale. Suffolk will likely put up another referendum for those voters, and it likely will pass overwhelmingly; residents there have wanted sewers for years. The project also will open up Sayville and West Sayville for future sewering. It’s a terrific resolution to an unfortunate bump in the road.

Suffolk’s plans to use state and federal funds to connect neighborhoods with no installation costs to their residents were approved by more than 85 percent of voters in both West Babylon-North Babylon-Wyandanch and Mastic-Shirley. They will pay only the annual charges incurred by current sewer district residents. Those votes meant that more than $360 million will be spent hooking up more than 7,000 homes to reduce nitrogen in our waterways and rebuild the wetlands that protect us from destructive storms. That’s real progress.

Now the county must decide how many Oakdale homes it can hook up for $26.4 million while keeping costs reasonable in what likely will be a first phase there. The money was allocated after superstorm Sandy to improve coastal resiliency. That’s critical, and we’re delighted Oakdale has an opportunity to join the fight. — The editorial board