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Big stink over Suffolk sewer layoffs

The Suffolk County Legislature hears a report on

The Suffolk County Legislature hears a report on the county's deficit in a meeting at at the William H. Rogers Building in Hauppauge. (March 6, 2012) Credit: Newsday/Karen Wiles Stabile

The struggle over layoffs is likely to continue on Tuesday morning at the Suffolk County Legislature in Riverhead. Former County Executive Steve Levy proposed nearly 470 layoffs. Since he took office in January, County Executive Steve Bellone has trimmed that number to 315, and more recently, to about 270. But the shouting isn’t over.

At Tuesday’s general meeting of the legislature there’s likely to be a big stink by environmental activists about a handful of proposed layoffs in the Department of Health Services. That department was hit hard in the layoffs, but one critical group, employees who test for water quality, has been restored. Now the issue is engineers, sanitarians and support staff in the Office of Wastewater Management. They’re the people who check to see that sewage treatment plants really are working. When the plants are not operating efficiently, it’s bad for our groundwater and our surface waters. And the county's future growth depends heavily on additional sewering. So we can't afford not to be watching closely how the plants work.

The Bellone administration’s idea is to let the state Department of Environmental Conservation supervise these plants. But DEC has lost roughly 800 employees in recent years, and is not in a position to take on that role.

So get ready for the fireworks in Riverhead.