Saturday, January 26, 2008

Westchester's Treatment Plant Upgrade Dilemma

What should Westchester County do? Its sewage treatment plants discharge 4552 pounds of nitrogen a day into the heart of Long Island Sound's dead zone (click here for summer hypoxia maps and look for the blotches of black and dark red, usually in mid to late August). The county has enthusiastically advocated for the Sound cleanup. But now its says that upgrading its four Sound shore treatment plants so they meet the 2014 goal of a 58.5 percent reduction in nitrogen would cost residents of the four sewer districts from about $472 to $1200 a year for 30 years. Because of that cost, the county wants the state to extend the deadlines for the work, although from this story it's not clear if it wants to extend the interim deadlines or the 2014 deadline.

My solution: change the law so that all of Westchester becomes one sewer district, and then spread the cost among all county property tax payers; in exchange for that, work with New Rochelle and Mamaroneck and Rye so that they make it easier and cheaper for all county residents to use their beaches and public boat ramps.

The other way to look at the cost is like this: property tax payers in the four Sound districts will pay $1.29 to $3.29 a day to do their fair share in cleaning up the Sound. I don't think that cost is so outrageous.

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