Water Reuse Road Map And Action Plan


Working to keep drinking water and surface water resources safe

Seatuck Executive Director Enrico Nardone holding a photo of a dry streambed in Nassau County.
(Photo by Julie Prisco)

On Wednesday, March 22, World Water Day was celebrated around the globe to shed light on the importance of fresh water and advocate for freshwater resource sustainability. In honor of World Water Day, the Great Neck Water Pollution Control District (GNWPCD) hosted Seatuck and the Greentree Foundation at their Great Neck facility to announce their Long Island Water Reuse Road Map and Action Plan.

Seatuck Environmental Association and the Greentree Foundation, in association with Cameron Engineering, established the Water Reuse Road Map and Action Plan to address the declining water quality of Long Island’s ground aquifers, freshwater, and coastal surface waters. Seatuck and Greentree are both non-profits based on Long Island. Seatuck is dedicated to conserving Long Island’s environment and wildlife. Greentree organizes and hosts meetings to advance peace and human rights, encourages sustainability and wildlife management, and to help make grants to support Long Island philanthropies. Both Seatuck and Greentree worked together to research, plan and organize a report to create the water reuse strategy for Long Island.

GNWPCD’s Superintendent Christopher Murphy opened the presentation by commending Seatuck’s action plan and expressing the honor he feels for being able to work with Seatuck on the committee responsible for the report and action plan.

“Our district’s prime focus is the protection of our community’s natural environment,” said Murphy. “We are proud to say that you are sitting in one of the most state-of-the-art wastewater treatment plants in the country. We work hard to ensure that the wastewater we receive is carefully treated and made safe before we return it to our environment.”

Seatuck Executive Director Enrico Nardone explained that they decided to host the announcement event at GNWPCD because of its success in water reuse and future potential to increase its water reuse productivity because of the water reuse action plan.

“This site and the water they’re generating has great potential to move it up the hill, irrigate the golf course up there, save millions of gallons of water for being discharged into Manhasset Bay and save millions of freshwater from being pulled out of the aquifer,” said Nardone.

Project Background
About 2.7 million people live in Nassau and Suffolk County. We live above our water supply, made up of tiered aquifers and coastal surface waters, which are subjected to the forces of gravity and laws of hydrology.

In the Long Island Water Reuse Road Map and Action Plan summary introduction, Seatuck explains the need to water reuse due to the decline in Long Island water quality and quantity problems. According to the NYS Department of Environmental Control (DEC), “Nitrogen comes primarily from wastewater, such as sewage treatment plants and residential cesspools, fertilizer and stormwater runoff.” The excess nitrogen in Long Island’s water risks public health, can trigger harmful algae blooms, and degrade salt marsh health.

Quantity problems on Long Island stem from high pumping rates and significantly decreased water table levels, resulting in lost streams and other wetlands.

While laws and policies have been put in place to help address the water quality and quantity issues on Long Island, Seatuck’s report and water reuse action plan will help advance the progress made. Seatuck Senior Conservation Policy Advocate John Turner reminds everyone it is essential to be thoughtful of our water drinking supply and provides a background on water reuse.

“Water reuse involves the plan or intentional use of water again for some other beneficial purpose, perhaps using highly treated wastewater to irrigate a golf course or agricultural crops,” said Turner. “And by so doing, providing water quality and quantity benefits.”

“Water reuse is designed to reduce nitrogen from sewer treatment plants in sewer areas while IA systems (Innovative/Alternative systems) target nitrogen generated from home in non-sewered areas,” said Turner. “The implementation of water reuse projects is particularly relevant to Nassau County given the current water quality and quantity challenges.”

Plan Overview
Steve Hadjiyane from Cameron Engineering provided an overview of what went into the research and evaluations for creating the roadmap. The road map pinpointed the 48 public wastewater treatment plants on Long Island and screened areas within a two-mile radius of each facility for water reuse applications.

Reuse Opportunity Map, Western Suffolk (Screengrab from Seatuck’s Long Island Water Reuse Road Map and Action Plan)

“We looked at four major categories to try to come up with a ranking and see which [areas of opportunity] are the best projects, which ones made the most sense,” said Hadjiyane. The four categories detailed in the Long Island Water Reuse Road Map and Action Plan executive summary are irrigation, commercial/industrial, environmental, and internal.
• Irrigation—Golf courses, sod farms, greenhouses, lawns and fields at educational and commercial campuses are categorized as water reuse opportunities.
• Commercial and Industrial—Industrial parks and job sites have the potential to utilize reclaimed water for purposes such as cooling, cleaning to mixing non-consumptive products.
• Environment—Reclaimed water can be used to address hydrological or ecological needs.
• Internal—Wastewater treatment plants can use reclaimed water on site. The GNWPCD already does a lot of water reuse for cleaning spray water.

“That’s really low-hanging fruit that all of our treatment plans should be doing, and we need to encourage them to do that,” said Hadjiyane. “All of these things play a big play into saving our aquifers, which are being depleted year after year,” said Hadjiyane.
Based on the roadmap examining the areas of opportunity within the two-mile radius of the wastewater treatment plants, Seatuck and Cameron Engineering identified 92 potential projects.

To rank and score the potential irrigation reuse projects, they considered capital cost, nitrogen reduction amounts, the annual quantity of potable water savings, water supply pumping concerns and more. They divided the irrigation projects into three tiers of concern, tier-one projects having the highest feasibility.

Seventeen projects were identified as tier one, sixteen involving golf course irrigation, the other being turf irrigation at Stony Brook University.

The Riverhead Sewer District Superintendent, Michael Reichel, attended the announcement event to discuss the success of water reuse at Riverhead and encourage the support of the action plan.

“Now’s the time to start planning for Long Island’s water future with a common sense approach,” said Reichel. “Riverhead Sewer District laid the groundwork by becoming the first Long Island wastewater reuse facility to realize true beneficial reuse through irrigation. There was a twofold project that reduced nitrogen loading going into the Peconic Estuary at the same time allowing an irrigant for the Indian Island Golf Course.”

“This success story shouldn’t end in Riverhead,” said Reichel. “Now that we have the tools needed to continue the work that was started in Riverhead, I hope this document does not get put on a shelf and left alone. It should be used for what it is; an action plan.”

Rick Balla, the head of the Watershed Management Branch at the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), partnered with the Riverhead Sewer District during their reuse project and is now supporting Seatuck’s plan.

Balla touched on the topics important to the project and to the EPA, including maintaining water levels in freshwater areas, preserving limited groundwater, reducing the nutrient load in drinking water, and reducing energy costs associated with pumping or treating water.

In addition, Balla discussed the National Water Reuse Action Plan and how it is geared toward improving water quality and supporting communities by funding local infrastructure projects. “Fifty billion is being provided to EPA over the next five years to address infrastructure. And as part of that infrastructure, we’re encouraging states to enhance their climate resilience. Through strategies including water reuse,” said Balla.

Adrienne Esposito, Executive Director at Citizen’s Campaign for the Environment, discussed the importance of water reuse on Long Island. “It’s going to save us money, prioritize the aquifer water as drinking water, fight saltwater intrusion, and reduce nitrogen loading into the marine environment,” said Esposito.

Town of North Hempstead Supervisor Jennifer DeSena, Town Councilwoman Veronica Lurvey and Nassau County Legislator Mazi Pilip were in attendance to show early support for the action plan.

“It’s extremely important that studies like this are done to help prioritize ways in which we can go forward and reduce the tremendous strain on drinking water,” said Supervisor DeSena.

Legislator Pilip shared her experience growing up in Africa. She said, “I know when you don’t have clean water, you have to walk many miles to bring a small amount of water to the entire family. So I have personal experience growing up in Africa until age 12. Anything to do with our environment, anything to do with providing clean water and thinking about the future of this county is very important to me.”

Whats Next?
To make the action plan a reality, the next steps involve working with the community and the government.

Hadjiyane from Cameron Engineering said, “we need to work with the NYSDEC and the EPA on developing better guidelines for New York State water. We also need to convene a water reuse work group to implement the strategies in this report. That will get the elected officials on board and help us pursue grant funding.”

Already, the GNWPCD is interested in the action plan, along with some golf courses. Seatuck will now be focusing on working with elected officials to help find the funding through a combination of state and federal grants.

To learn more about the Long Island Water Reuse Road Map and Action Plan and see the full report compiled by Seatuck, Greentree and Cameron Engineering, visit seatuck.org/water-reuse

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