Editorial: Hopeful for Regional Response


Sag Harbor Mayor Sandra Schroeder is the most recent public official to come forward in support of ushering in a new era in construction that would require projects to include low-nitrogen wastewater treatment systems in an effort to protect our greatest economic resource — our bays and estuaries.

We hope the rest of the Sag Harbor Village Board of Trustees shares her commitment to enact the kind of legislation that will allow residents to benefit from water quality rebates from the town, county and state.

East Hampton Town led the charge — unveiling plans earlier this month to require these systems for all new construction or substantial renovation projects — and Southampton Town is poised to follow suit. North Haven Mayor Jeff Sander has joined Ms. Schroeder in signaling his interest in this kind of mandate.

Outlined in East Hampton Town’s proposal is a sliding scale rebate program to lessen the financial impact on homeowners. Residents in environmentally sensitive areas or those who meet certain income thresholds could potentially see the full cost, up to $15,000, of one of these systems paid for through a portion of the town’s Community Preservation Fund that has been earmarked for water quality projects.

Harmful algal blooms, from brown tide in the Peconic and South Shore bays, to red tides in Sag Harbor Cove and Shinnecock Bay, to toxic cyanobacteria that has shown up in freshwater ponds, are something we come to expect on an annual basis, blamed primarily on a population that lives largely without wastewater treatment, and continues to use fertilizers that leach into our bays and estuaries.

For Sag Harbor Village, a waterfront community with a number of homes in flood-prone areas, this kind of water quality initiative is critical for neighborhoods like those around Havens Beach and Sag Harbor Cove.

While the final legislation in East Hampton will likely be tweaked before the public is given a chance to weigh in, it’s a good blueprint for other municipalities.

Water quality is an issue that must be addressed regionally, and it appears now the South Fork not only has funding, but also the will, to start chipping away at this critical problem.