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Welcome from the Co-Directors

The New York State Center for Clean Water Technology was borne out of a local problem – nitrogen contamination of our groundwater and surface water.  

Suffolk County is home to more than 1.5 million people and 74% of homes are un-sewered. The wastewater from individual homes is discharged to antiquated cesspools and septic tanks that deliver nitrogen and other contaminants to groundwater.   

Groundwater represents both Suffolk County’s sole source of drinking water and primary source of freshwater to its surface waters.  Since the late 1980’s, levels of nitrogen in Suffolk County’s groundwater have been steadily rising to an average of nearly four milligrams per liter, and wastewater discharged to household septic tanks and cesspools has been identified as the primary source of this nitrogen.  

Recently, it has been recognized that the discharge of this nitrogen-rich groundwater is having a cascading negative effect within marine ecosystems where it is contributing to the loss of salt marshes and seagrass and the expansion of harmful algal blooms that degrade water quality and threaten fisheries and human health.  

Because tourism, recreational boating, commercial fishing, and recreational fishing each represent billion dollar industries that are dependent on water quality and fisheries, excessive nitrogen loading represents an environmental and economic threat to Suffolk County.  

Importantly, many other states across the United States eastern seaboard including MA, RI, MD, VA, and FL all face a similar scenario.  Moreover, 25% of homes in the United States have cesspools and septic tanks (US Census Bureau) and household wastewater represents a major pollutant in many locations across the globe.

The Solution – New technologies are needed to prevent nitrogen from entering our groundwater from individual on-site wastewater treatment systems. While there now exists technologies that remove more nitrogen from household waste streams than standard cesspools and septic tanks, these technologies are not without their shortcomings.

The goal of the NYS Center for Clean Water Technology is to develop next generation approaches for handling household wastewater that are more efficient at removing nitrogen and other contaminants, less expensive, easier to operate, and smaller in size. While our focus is on solving the nitrogen issue in Suffolk County, the solutions developed by the Center will be applicable to other parts of the United States and globally.    

The Center for Clean Water Technology is a nexus for both innovation and entrepreneurship.  We are marshaling the best science and engineering to develop solutions to our water quality problems. Our global view of wastewater is that it is an important resource that is a source of water, energy and nutrients and can be used sustainably, both on Long Island and around the world.

                                                                                                              -- Dr. Hal Walker & Dr. Chris Gobler                                             




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