Sylvester Manor Launches Clean Water Project


On Thursday, May 11, Sylvester Manor Educational Farm held a ribbon-cutting ceremony for its Clean Water Project, an undertaking that represents the first step in the renovation of the property’s historic Manor House. This project serves as Suffolk County’s first installation of an alternative onsite “constructed wetlands” wastewater treatment system that is designed to greatly reduce the nitrogen that flows into surrounding waters. Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone led the ceremonial “First Flush” as the latest effort in his Reclaim Our Water initiative to combat nitrogen pollution and restore water quality.

“We are incredibly excited to be at the forefront of this technology that melds two critical imperatives,” Sylvester Manor Educational Farm’s executive director Jo-Ann Robotti said. “We are able to significantly reduce the wear and tear on our historic Manor house while at the same time, helping to improve the quality of the waters that surround us. It’s a win-win situation for Sylvester Manor, the Town of Shelter Island and the Peconic Estuary System.”

The educational farm, which hosts residential farm staff each year, was challenged by overuse of its historic Manor house. By “upcycling” former shipping containers into temporary kitchen and restrooms, the organization was able to take much of the burden off the house. At the same time it provided an opportunity to install this state-of-the-art wastewater treatment system to improve Suffolk’s ground and surface water quality, in conjunction with Suffolk County’s Reclaim Our Water initiative. The restroom units will also be a much-needed addition to Shelter Island’s public toilet facilities.

“Clean water should be the birthright of every Long Islander, and in the past three years, we have taken significant strides to address our region’s decline of our waterways, particularly here on the East End,” said Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone.  “Today’s first flush here at the historic Sylvester Manor Educational Farm exemplifies our commitment to reclaim our water by utilizing the most advanced waste water technology available in order to reduce nitrogen pollution and clean our waterways for future generations.  This latest initiative not only benefits Sylvester Manor, but our East End residents as well as the Town of Shelter Island.”

The constructed wetland installation, designed as a non-proprietary vegetated gravel recirculating filter (VRGF) system by Natural Systems Utilities of New Jersey and built by Peder Larsen of Shelter Island Sand, Gravel & Contracting, takes advantage of natural processes. As wastewater passes through the shallow root zone and upper gravel layer, it consumes air as ammonium is nitrified and microorganisms attached to the gravel and roots help process the waste, which then enters a saturated layer where denitrification can occur.

This natural filter is insulated with a layer of peat mulch and planted with wetland and wetland meadow species. Plants and grasses support local habitat as they uptake the excess nutrients and help purify the water.

“I was pleased to provide funding from the State of New York for the installation of an onsite wastewater treatment system at Sylvester Manor Educational Farm,” said New York State Assemblyman Fred W. Thiele Jr. “This innovative project is the first in Suffolk County and will greatly reduce contaminants that have been identified as significant threats to Long Island’s water quality, especially nitrogen. I commend Sylvester Manor on this significant effort to remediate and protect our precious water resources.”

“I’m grateful to Sylvester Manor Educational Farm for being willing to address water quality challenges in a forward-thinking way, and for Suffolk County departments of Economic Development, Planning and Health Services and the offices of Wastewater Management and Ecology for their good efforts,” says Legislator Bridget Fleming. “This project will serve as a model for installations throughout the County and moves our community forward toward an environmentally sustainable future.”