OpEd: Fund Our Sewers, Pass The Environmental Bond Act

Bay Park Sewage Plant
Bay Park Sewage Treatment Plant in East Rockaway.

Sometimes, doing the right thing is the hardest thing — eating your veggies, going for a jog or being a lifelong Mets fan. However, doing the difficult thing ultimately pays off.

Expanding and modernizing Long Island’s sewer system is one of those things. It will be expensive, but it is absolutely essential. And we can pay for it through reinstating an Environmental Bond Act back into the New York State budget.

In addition to the environmental benefits, sewer enhancements also provide economic growth in two distinct ways: 1) Directly, through job creation and 2) Indirectly, by increasing system capacity which enables development/redevelopment to continue.

Take Suffolk County for example. Due to a lack of adequate sewer infrastructure, major redevelopment projects such as Heartland have stalled and halted local economic growth. But with a major investment to upgrade water infrastructure, we could bring thousands of well-paying jobs and pump money into the local economy.

It would also allow the region to proceed with important redevelopment projects in Suffolk, improving the quality of life and increasing property values for residents. Without these modern upgrades, redevelopment and economic growth will remain stagnate.

In the long term, the deep upfront costs will pay for themselves through increased economic development, additional storm protection and cleaner water ways. But the initial burden could be much lighter if New York were to support an Environmental Bond Act. The current proposal includes $3 billion for shovel-ready ‘green’ clean water projects.

Another $500 million would go directly to clean water infrastructure to protect our waterways and ensure they remain safe and clean by enabling communities to make critical upgrades to sewer lines and maintain water treatment facilities. This act would provide the local in vestment we need to jump start the economy while building a brighter future for Long Island.

By investing in and enhancing our sewer and septic systems, we will have the ability to reverse negative environmental impacts on local waters and better manage wastewater discharge. Connecting existing sewers to newly upgraded systems, will allow chemicals and wastewater to be more easily treated and centrally managed.

New and upgraded sewers will also help advance environmental justice by protecting more of our vulnerable coastline communities at a time when extreme weather continues to threaten our homes and beaches. Our coastline is a critical part of Long Island’s economy, and now is the time to ensure it will weather any future storms.

Again, it will not be easy, but it is necessary. Every Long Islander (Mets fan or not) will reap the benefits of our decision to ‘do the right thing’. We should all support an Environmental Bond Act and immediately prioritize critical water infrastructure projects. Not only will it help fuel our economy in these difficult times, but it will ensure Long Island’s environment remains pristine and strong, built to last for the years ahead, as we wait for the next World Series trophy to return to Citi Field…

Marc Herbst is executive director of Long Island Contractors Association.

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