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Letter: Wastewater system tech is unproven

Shown are digestor tanks at the Bay Park

Shown are digestor tanks at the Bay Park Sewage Treatment Plant in East Rockaway. At right is a 60-foot-high gas sphere on March 9, 2011. Credit: Kevin P. Coughlin

We can agree that nitrates in our surface water are a problem and may be the cause of the brown tide and red tide in our bays ["Push for outfall pipe for Bay Park sewage," News, Jan. 31]. Politicians and environmental groups have proposed that the removal of nitrates from our sanitary systems will mitigate this problem, and are forming a wastewater commission, composed of appointed political members, to force the replacement of all existing sanitary systems within 1,000 feet of the surface waters.

That may sound simple, but on close analysis it is problematic. The removal of existing sanitary systems, especially for older homes, requires excavating and removing nearby trees, and possibly destroying driveways, patios and lawns. There would be about 80,000 homes affected, at a cost of up to $20,000 per home, to comply with these new rules. Most of those homes would be on the East End forks.

Removal of nitrates from individual sanitary systems is a very complex scientific and engineering problem, and at present, there is no proven way to remove nitrates from individual sanitary systems. There are some experimental systems, but they have not demonstrated effectiveness over the long term. You do not want to spend that kind of money and destroy all those yards without a proven long-term solution.

What is needed is a committee of scientists and engineers to resolve the technical and engineering problems first before a law is put into effect.

Joseph Fischetti, Southold

Editor's note: The writer is a civil engineer who designs sanitary systems.


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