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Opinion

Editorial: Ronkonkoma sewer link a wise investment

An architect's rendering projecting what the existing LIRR

An architect's rendering projecting what the existing LIRR parking garage could look like upon the completion of the Ronkonkoma Hub project. Credit: TRITECH Development Group

Suffolk County is moving forward with plans to hook up the Ronkonkoma Hub project to the Southwest Sewer District. Now, sewers are not sexy. We get it. But their potential to spur economic development is enormous and the county's proposal is a classic example of that. This hookup plan is the right decision by the county, and it's both cheaper than the alternative and better for the environment.

This is a marriage of two regionally significant behemoths -- the sewer district's treatment plant at Bergen Point in West Babylon, whose capacity is being expanded to 40 million gallons a day, and the $475-million Hub project, which would redevelop a blighted area next to the Ronkonkoma train station by building 1,450 apartments and more than a half-million square feet of retail, office and medical facilities. But the plan offers more potential payoffs. Building a pipeline to the Hub that extends the reach of the district by seven miles will allow for more connections that could open up additional areas to sewers. And it has no effect on the ability to hook up to the district the similarly massive and regionally significant Heartland project, should it ever move forward.

The plan also is a win for the Hub itself. It's cheaper than an earlier proposal to build a sewage treatment plant nearby, can be completed more quickly, and is better for the environment by discharging treated wastewater three miles into the Atlantic Ocean. A caveat: The county needs to study the effect on the aquifer of withdrawing 1 million gallons a day that would have flowed back from the proposed plant into groundwater. No one knows the impact, if any, on tributaries, lakes and wetlands. Suffolk also needs to complete the new and larger outfall pipe from Bergen Point to help handle the extra load.

On balance, Suffolk's plan is a winner, for the Hub and the county overall. Make the connection.

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