All Things Political: Steps to improve Long Island’s environment

All Things Political: Steps to improve Long Island’s environment

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In July, 1990, one headline in the NY Times foretold a very grim future: “L.I. Sound is So Polluted it Faces Long-Term Damage, Sci- entists Say.” In hindsight, truer words were never spoken.

Some of Long Island’s current environmental issues include: toxins infiltrating the water sup- ply from the illegal disposal of chemicals; substandard air qual- ity; nitrogen run-off causing dead zones and creating algae in Long Island’s bays and harbors; con- tinued reliance on plastic bags that end up littering our com- munity; and, persistent beach closings from bacteria-filled sew- age whenever there is significant rainfall. As a result, we are liter- ally destroying the very land, sea and air we need to survive.

Politicians are habitually reactive to environmental is- sues, instead of being proactive. In fact, some are still deniers of global warming. It’s time to go on the offensive, and be proactive before things get worse.

There are close to 500,000 cesspools and septic systems on

Long Island. This antiquated waste treatment technology fails to remove nitrogen before it en- ters the water table, causing it to leach into our bays and harbors. Local government could mitigate further damage by: investing in sewers and sewage treatment plants; creating stronger laws for ground and surface water protection; finding new and in- novative technologies to treat human waste; and by educating the public about what individu- als can do to protect the environ- ment. Along these lines, residents 

should locate pharmacies that collect expired medications, to stop the trend of medications contaminating our local water supply when they are flushed down drains.

According to the Long Island Index there are close to 250 ac- tive “brownfields” on Long Is- land. This number represents real property whose reuse or redevel- opment may be complicated by the presence of contamination. Remediating these brownfields needs to be a priority. Incentives

should be given to developers willing to clean them up to be- come usable. Also, government must stiffen the penalties for il- legal dumping. The recent Islip dumping scandal is indicative of the problem.

Every time there is signifi- cant rain, beaches are closed to prevent residents from swimming in a toxic stew of bacteria. Politi- cians may prefer other subjects to talking about installing new sew- ers and sewage treatment plants, 

but that doesn’t make it less nec- essary.We should be proactively investigating the most affordable means to update our aging sew- age system. Hurricane Sandy ex- posed the problem with Nassau County’s sewage treatment when over 2 billion gallons of raw sew- age spilled into South Shore bays and harbors after the Bay Park Sewage Treatment Plant was flooded. There is a pressing need for an ocean sewage outflow pipe to fix the problem at Bay Park, yet it still has not been properly addressed since the storm almost four years ago. Regarding air quality, Suf-

folk County gets the notorious distinction of having the worst air quality in NY State over the last 15 years, as reported by the American Lung Association. Nas- sau doesn’t even bother to moni- tor ozone in the air, one of the main components of smog, so residents have no idea how clean their air is. One solution to help clean up the air is putting solar panels on top of every public school on Long Island. These flat open spaces are unobtrusive and should be used to create clean, cost-effective energy using cur- rent incentives offered by New York State. Electricity from solar panels replaces power generated by polluting fossil fuels, and will model good environmental stew- ardship for our children.

Finally, plastic bags are clog- ging sewers, littering streets and getting stuck in trees. Personally, my wife and I keep reusable gro- cery bags in our trunks and I rec- ommend every household do the same. Being proactive to protect our land, sea and air may seem like a nuisance at first, but the good feeling you get every time you say, “I’ve got my own bag,” far outweighs the inconvenience. With sound governmental policy and a responsible citizenry, we can make great strides to im- prove the natural wonder that is Long Island. In the end, the al- ternative of a polluted, unusable environment is much worse.

Adam Haber is the Democratic Candidate for NYS Senate District #7.

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