Areas of Focus
Individual Onsite Wastewater Treatment Systems
There are approximately 30 million individual onsite systems nation-wide servicing roughly one-quarter of the country’s households ( US Census Bureau). These systems typically range from antiquated cesspools, to septic systems -- a combination of a septic tank and leaching pits or drainfields.
While effective at protecting people and animals from the pathogens present in wastewater, these options are not designed to remove nutrients, pharmaceuticals, or other personal care products that pass through them.
On Long Island, as in many other developed areas that rely on individual onsite wastewater management, the nitrogen/nutrient-laden effluent that emanates from these systems has been linked directly to the degradation of ground and surface water quality, and to the proliferation of Harmful Algal Blooms (HABs) like the red, brown and rust tides that have caused devastation of once bountiful marine populations and habitats.
In a region where natural assets like the beaches and bays are widely recognized as the engine of the local economy, the threat to water quality is an issue of widespread public concern that has been identified by the public and their representatives as a serious threat that must be addressed.
Given the urgency of the need, the initial focus of the Center is to develop and commercialize affordable, reliable, easy-to-operate, and effective treatment systems with reduced infrastructure footprints for individual onsite wastewater that can significantly reduce nitrogen loads and other contaminants to ground and surface waters.
As part of this effort the Center is developing a framework that aligns regional resources to refine or reinvent existing technology, and to identify opportunities for achieving economies of scale that ensure the affordability of resulting solutions; a key element in determining their viability.
Long Island: A Major Market = Major Opportunity
Long Island is an ideal location for cultivating the development of water protection technologies -- in particular enhanced individual onsite treatment -- because its needs are so great.
In Suffolk County, an area 2,373 square miles in size, there are approximately 350,000 individual onsite systems, of which 260,000 have already been identified by Suffolk County to be in need of upgrading. In neighboring Nassau County, an area 453 square miles in size, there are up to 150,00 systems.
Importantly, public and political support for water protection and restoration efforts on Long Island is very strong. In 2014, the Suffolk County Executive, Steve Bellone, announced the " Reclaim Our Waters" Initiate, a comprehensive, multi-phased, infrastructure plan to reverse decades of nitrogen pollution in Long Island waterways. Further, Bellone declared nitrogen "public water enemy number one" for Suffolk County in his 2014 State of the County address.
In both Suffolk and Nassau Counties, the regulatory authority for wastewater regulations rests with the respective county health departments, rather than the towns or villages, creating the largest market opportunity in the country.