Suffolk County to invest $100 million to improve water quality

SUFFOLK COUNTY (WABC) -- Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone marked Earth Day by announcing a historic $100 million investment to improve water quality.

Bellone says Suffolk County will use $30 million for its septic improvement program, which gives grants to homeowners.

The goal is to eliminate more than 5,000 outdated cesspools and septic systems.

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"Today's announcement on Earth Day is part of us saying and declaring quite clearly that we will come out of this stronger and better than before," Bellone said.

Scientists say that the outdated cesspools and septic systems are the primary sources of excess nutrients that have fouled local bays, contributing to harmful algae blooms, beach closures and fish kills.

To date, more than 2,300 homeowners have applied for grants under the program. But in the past, some of the residents who received the grant money were taxed on it, so it remains to be seen whether the county can stop that from happening again to encourage more residents to participate.

"Not only should this not be taxable for a homeowner, it shouldn't be taxable at all," Bellone said.

Bellone says the county needs money from the federal infrastructure bill for other plans including the long-awaited sewer projects along South Shore river corridors.

"Tourism is our number one industry," state Assemblyman Steven Englebright said. "People want the waters to be clean. It's what drives our economy."

The goal is simply to protect the quality of life in a place surrounded by water.

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In Paterson, officials launched a three-day citywide cleanup, with volunteers sprucing up city streets and parks.


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