Suffolk County designed this division in order to protect and maintain the quality and integrity of Suffolk County’s ground, drinking, and surface waters. Providing critical protection of our groundwater resources is especially important here in Suffolk County, because we sit atop a federally designated Sole-Source Aquifer. Protection of the vast arrays of fresh and salt surface waters is vitally important in maintaining the social and economic advantages afforded by the natural aquatic environment of Suffolk County. The Water Quality and Improvement Division’s primary goal is to protect and remediate the quality of ground and surface waters throughout Suffolk County.
Supervises administers, and implements the ¼% sales tax funded Water Quality Protection and Restoration Program and Land Stewardship Initiatives (WQPRP) under Section 12-2 (B) of the Suffolk County Charter provides administrative and technical support to the WQPRP Review Committee which approves all funding through the WQPRP.
Coordinates activities being performed by the County Department of Public Works and the County Department of Parks, Recreation, and Conservation under Section 12-2 (B) of the Suffolk County Charter via personnel and / or consultants funded in those departments under the ¼% County Drinking Water Protection Program, Fund 477.
Prepares applications for funding assistance through State grant programs, such as the Clean Air/Clean Water Bond Act.
Oversees all water quality improvement projects approved for grant funding.
Represents the Commissioner at various public and governmental meetings.
Serves on numerous committees and task forces as required.
Maintain records and documents for all active Water Quality projects.
Engineering / Environmental
Oversees all stages of stormwater remediation projects from concept to completion including design, permits, implementation, and inspections
Assists DPW in responding to public complaints that relate to illicit discharges to County-owned storm sewer systems and/or surface waters
Uses available literature to evaluate the effectiveness of various stormwater remediation practices
Coordinates with Cornell Cooperative Extension and DPW to ensure that requirements of US EPA Phase II are met with each project
Coordinates Vector Control Projects with DPW
Provides support on Department of Health Services (DHS) and Parks Department WQPRP projects
Coordinates various DHS projects related to Water Quality improvements
Water Quality Protection and Restoration Program and Land Stewardship Initiatives
Funded under the Suffolk County 1/4% Drinking Water Protection Program for Environmental Protection (Fund 477)
Created by Resolution 659-2002; amended by Resolution 770-2007 and by voter approval this program has been extended 17 years (until 2030)
The WQPRP provides for funding to protect and restore water resources throughout the County. This includes both surface and ground water. Projects must be sponsored by the County.
The following are the categories of projects eligible for funding under the WQPRP:
No-Discharge Zone Implementation
Education and Outreach
Other Non-point Source Pollution - Remediation
Non-point Source Abatement and Control - Preservation
Non-point Source Abatement and Control - Remediation
Aquatic Habitat Restoration
Agricultural Non-point Source Abatement and Control
Pollution Prevention Initiatives
Land Stewardship Initiatives
Fertilizer Nitrogen Reduction Legislation and Funding
WQPRP funding was provided to reduce nitrogen loading to ground and surface waters through the overall reduction and better management of turf fertilizer applications. The bill includes the following measures:
Prohibits fertilizer application to turf between November 1st and April 1st, months when the ground is likely to be frozen (Agriculture is exempt)
Prohibits fertilizer application on all county properties at all times (County Farm, golf courses, athletic fields, and newly seeded or sodded areas are exempt)
Requires licensed landscapers to take a “Groundwater Stewardship and Turf Nutrient and Maintenance Practices” course to renew or obtain their license
Requires the posting of informational signs and brochures at retail establishments
Emphasizes education and outreach via coordination of existing programs and entities as well as a new interactive website to be developed by Cornell Cooperative Extension and Cornell University.
Suffolk County continues to be a leader in invasive species control policies and funding -- the need to keep waters open for fishing, boating and swimming, our lands walkable, and keeping our natural areas rich in biodiversity is critical for our county's future. The Suffolk County Water And Land Invasives Advisory Board was created in 2009 to implement the county-wide invasives program.
The Charter Law extending and accelerating the Suffolk County ¼% drinking water protection program for environmental protection was approved by the Suffolk County voters during November 2007. This law extended the ¼% sales tax revenue trust fund through November 30, 2030. An additional 0.50% share of the ¼% sales tax trust fund was implemented on December 1, 2007 to fund the Water Quality Protection and Restoration Program and Land Stewardship Initiatives (WQPRP). This raises the portion of the ¼% sales tax revenues apportioned to the WQPRP to 11.75%.
WQPRP -Through the WQPRP, Suffolk County has funded over $52 million in projects to reduce stormwater runoff, mitigate and prevent pollution of groundwater and surface waters, and to restore natural water habitats and wetlands.
Management of over 50 Active Projects - The Water Quality Improvement Division supervised 50 on-going water quality projects during 2016. The total funding to date for the projects funded through the Water Quality Protection and Restoration Program and Land Stewardship Initiatives (WQPRP) is approximately $52 million dollars.
Initiation of 6 New Projects - During 2016, the WQPRP Review Committee approved $943,851 in Enhanced Water Quality funding for an additional 6 projects.
Tidal Wetland Restoration at Indian Island County Park
The Division applied for a grant through the Water Quality Improvement Project (WQIP) fund from the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (NYSDEC) for the restoration of a tidal wetland system at Indian Island County Park in Riverhead. The Division was awarded the grant for $788,000 for the execution of the proposed project. This is an important part of the preservation and restoration of wetlands within the Peconic Estuary System.
The Division was also successful in obtaining support for an additional $300,000 in WQPRP funding from the Suffolk County ¼% sales tax funds for this project. Funding from NYSDEC and Suffolk County will provide for the implementation of the project as it was proposed to the State.
The Division has attended several meetings during 2013 with the NYSDEC to discuss the final design plans and pre-permitting procedures.
As recommended by the NYSDEC, during 2012, the Department of Public Works conducted surveys and sieve analysis of soils of the area, in order to update the project work plan. The final design was completed during 2013, and it is estimated that the project will benefit from a reduction in costs from the preliminary design as a result of lower estimates on sediments to be excavated from the area. The project will move forward during 2014.
Wetlands Stewardship Program (WSP)
This program was recommended by the Vector Control and Wetlands Management Long-Term Plan, under Resolution 1150-2007, to address the needs of wetlands throughout the County. As stipulated in Resolution 1150-2007, the WSP is to be conducted under the supervision of the Department of Economic Development and Planning. The Division of Water Quality Improvement has been administering the WSP for the Department. This program is important because it deals with public health concerns related to mosquito issues and the diverse environmental services that these delicate environments provide.
A State of the County initiative was successfully launched to assess and develop indicators of wetlands health, establish preservation and restoration priorities, and design and implement pilot marsh restoration projects for the approximately 17,000 acres of tidal wetlands in Suffolk County. Executive Order 4-2007 created the Wetlands Stewardship Committee and Resolution 367-2007 appropriated $220,000 to hire a consultant, both to help implement this program.
A final report, prepared under contract with a consultant, was received by the County during 2012. The Wetlands Stewardship Strategy (WSS) was finalized by the Division in conjunction with Public Works vector control and accepted by the Wetlands Stewardship Committee (WSC) during 2013. The final product is the Wetland Stewardship Strategy (WSS), which provides a plan for restoration and management based on the Long-Term Plan principles of vector control and reduction of pesticides. The County has started implementing the recommendations of the WSS with a larger scale wetlands restoration project at Indian Island County Park.
Hazard Mitigation Grant Program (HMGP) Application
The Division submitted a grant application during November 2013 under the federally-funded (State implemented) HMGP. The proposed project will restore the marsh at Smith Point North County Park in Shirley and if funded will provide natural protection from flooding tidal surges.
Given the magnitude of the potential tidal flooding damage compared to the modest cost of implementing the project, even if a small fraction of the tidal flooding could be prevented by the implementation of this project the benefit will far exceed the cost of the project. We have conservatively assumed that the full implementation of the project would mitigate at least 10% of the direct potential tidal flooding damages.
Fish Ladder at Lower Yaphank Lake
The Division moved forward during 2013 with a project to provide fish passage through the CR 21 impoundment that forms Lower Lake in Yaphank. The purpose of this project is to restore fish passage in the upstream portions of the Carmans River. Installing a fish ladder at Lower Lake will allow fish, predominantly alewives and American eel, to migrate upstream to spawning habitat. This is important because Alewife and American eel have been identified as priority diadromous fish species due to their historic presence but currently limited distribution within the Carmans River. Alewife, are also a species that is particularly important for the aquatic food chain.
This project is in accordance with the South Shore Estuary Reserve Council's Comprehensive Management Plan to restore the estuary's living resources and habitats. The project is also consistent with the SSER CMP recommendation to restore diadromous fish populations in tributaries where the necessary habitat conditions exist or can be created.
The Division executed a contract with New York State Department of State to receive a $252,000 grant for this project. The WQPRP Review Committee has recommended an additional $200,000 in ¼% Suffolk County funding for this project. A contractor for the design/engineering phase of the project was selected during early January 2013. A contract with GEI consultants to design the project and to obtain all necessary construction permits was executed during 2013 and a project kickoff meeting was held during October 2013.
Pesticide Community Advisory Committee (CAC)
The Pesticide CAC was established by Resolution. No. 1227-2006. This committee considers temporary ‘special use’ exemptions to Local Law No. 59-2006 requested by the County’s Departments or organizations using County property. The resolution requires that the CAC meet four times per year, but the meetings have typically been held more frequently. The Division headed up this committee which held meetings throughout 2016 to review exemption requests for pesticides to be applied on County properties.
Support for the pesticide phase-out on County properties is provided under contract with Cornell Cooperative Extension. The funding for this project comes from the ¼% water quality protection program and must be recommended each year by the WQPRP Review Committee and approved by the adoption of the County operating budget.
Cornell Cooperative Extension (CCE) Programs
During 2017 the Division provided technical review and support for the five (5) CCE programs listed below. These purposes of these programs range from keeping the County in compliance with Federal and State stormwater runoff regulations to shellfish restoration to various agricultural programs that will help to protect our environment while retaining the economic benefits of the agricultural industry of Suffolk County.
1. US EPA Stormwater Phase II Implementation
2. Restoration of Peconic Bay Scallops
3. Alternative Management Strategies for Control of Insect Pests in Suffolk County Agriculture and Landscapes
4. Integrated Pest Management Program
5. Development and Implementation of an Agricultural Stewardship Program
Stormwater Phase II
The Division continued to manage this vital program that is necessary for the County to remain in compliance with its NYSDEC General SPDES permit for stormwater discharges. This permit is mandated by the USEPA pursuant to the Clean Water Act. The Division works closely with Suffolk County Departments of Public Works, Parks, Health Services, and the County Attorney’s Office with respect to this program.
The Division worked with the County Attorney’s Office and the County Executive’s Budget Office to process contracts, contracts amendments and budget modifications associated with this program.
The Division provides technical input and oversight on work to be completed by CCE, and works with CCE to ensure compliance with all permitting requirements.
Funding was approved through the WQPRP Review Committee and adopted into the Department’s 2018 operating budget to allow CCE of Suffolk County to continue their work in support of the County’s general stormwater permit requirements.
Canaan Lake Restoration
An important project to eradicate invasive weeds was steadily progressed during 2017 at Canaan Lake in North Patchogue. The Division, in conjunction with Suffolk County DPW and Legislator Calarco’s Office, has been managing the contractors doing the engineering and design work on this project. A new culvert was installed to draw down the water level of the lake to expose the invasive weeds to the winter weather of 2017-2018. The amount of reduction of the weeds will be assessed during 2018 with further eradication measures to be taken, if necessary, in the future.
Kelp Feasibility Study
The Division is actively support a “kelp” feasibility study. Seaweed (kelp) aquaculture is an emerging “green industry” that offers considerable environmental and economic benefits to the region. This project aims to evaluate the potential of this new industry in Suffolk County to improve water quality via bioextraction of water column nitrogen and carbon, while producing a high-demand, renewable product. The techniques and methodology needed to be successful in this initiative have been developed and will be refined, adapted and implemented by Cornell Cooperative Extension (CCE) scientists at several sites within the Peconic Estuary in consultation with scientists at the University of Connecticut.
Seaweed aquaculture is a unique green industry in that it is actually restorative to the marine environment making it a sustainable practice. Growth and harvest of seaweeds leads to the direct removal of excess dissolved nutrients (e.g. nitrogen and phosphorus) and carbon from local waters, helping to reverse the impacts of eutrophication and excess carbon emissions. Nitrogen specifically, is a pollutant of significant concern in the waters of Suffolk County, and this project can lead to large scale removal of this POC from our local waters. Research conducted in Long Island Sound by the University of Connecticut found kelp aquaculture has the potential to extract up to 100 kg of nitrogen per hectare over the six month growing period (December-May). Other published research has found that seaweed cultivation has the potential to take up carbon dioxide at a rate approaching 10 tons/hectare/year.
Recent work in Long Island Sound has demonstrated that seaweeds can be grown to produce a viable commodity used for food, pharmaceuticals, soil amendments and/or biofuels, while sequestering nitrogen and carbon from the water column. This project represents the first step in developing a new commodity for New York’s legacy industry of aquaculture to expand, providing a reliable “crop” for current and future marine farmers to grow in and harvest from Suffolk County waters. Once established, this sustainable seaweed aquaculture industry could play an important role in our marine environment by removing excess nutrients, especially dissolved nitrogen, while creating new sustainable green jobs.
Nitrogen Fertilizer Reduction Initiative
As part of Local Law 41-2007 all renewals, or new applicants for a Suffolk County Home Improvement Contractors License, who apply fertilizer, must take a Suffolk County approved turf management class. By the end of 2016 a total of 38 classes had been offered and more than 1,650 certificates had been issued. As part of the course landscapers learn about the prohibition dates on fertilizer application, the environmental consequences of nitrogen runoff, alternatives to turfgrass such as native plantings, proper use and application techniques of fertilizer, and information on soils.
Signs and brochures have been sent out to all county retail locations that sell fertilizer informing the public of the prohibition dates for fertilizer use, how to manage their lawns properly with less fertilizer, why nitrogen pollution is detrimental to our water resources, and when is the best time to apply fertilizer. A self-teaching CD, developed by Cornell Cooperative Extension of Suffolk County (CCE), to educate owners and employees of fertilizer retail locations was also sent out to all retailers. This information can be disseminated to customers inquiring about the program. Suffolk County has been working with retail locations to replenish brochures and replace lost or misplaced signs.
This program received a 2010 National Association of Counties (NACo) Award which recognizes unique and innovative county programs nationwide. The Division made a presentation about the fertilizer reduction initiative including such topics as: the law, landscaper education classes, and the turf module developed by Cornell University (CU) at Stony Brook University’s School of Marine and Atmospheric Sciences Long Island Groundwater Research Institute held at Suffolk County Water Authority.
Aquatic Invasive Species
The Division worked with the recommendations of the recently completed feasibility study for the control and eradication of aquatic invasive plants. The recommendations contained a set of alternatives for the control of the invasive species for Canaan Lake and the two Yaphank Lakes.
The Division worked with the town of Brookhaven, NYSDEC, and any other organizations involved in eradication of invasive species from the two Yaphank Lakes. The Town began implementation of the removal of aquatic invasive species from Upper Yaphank Lake during 2013 based upon the final report/plan to eradicate aquatic invasive plants.
Water and Land Invasive Advisory Board (Board)
The Division is an active voting member of this Board and provided technical and scientific advisories throughout 2012. The Department has dedicated website space to provide information to the public and the most updated version of the Do Not Sell List (list). Resolution 614 -2007 adopted a local law to prohibit the sale, introduction, and propagation of invasive non-native plant species. The Resolution also established the Board to manage and update the list of those species that are considered invasive and non-native. The Board meets several times a year to review and update the “Do-Not-Sell List” and holds public hearings prior any updates of Resolution 614-2007.
Peconic Estuary Program (PEP)
The Division participated throughout 2016 in the Peconic Estuary Program (PEP) Management Committee meetings as well as meetings of the PEP Technical Advisory Committee and the PEP Natural Resources Committee.
Peconic Estuary Protection Committee (PEPC)
The Division is a member of the Peconic Estuary Protection Committee (PEPC), a coalition among municipal governments in the Peconic Estuary watershed. The goals of the PEPC include developing efficiencies in stormwater management and working towards improved water quality for the watershed. This coalition will help all member municipalities comply with their NYS DEC issued State Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (SPDES) permits for stormwater management and will facilitate competing for grant funding for stormwater projects that are vital to the protection of the water quality of the Peconic Estuary.