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Grant Helps Fund Green Wastewater Treatment

Constructed wetlands are an efficient and economical way to treat wastewater. (Lloyd roz /Wikimedia Commons)
Constructed wetlands are an efficient and economical way to treat wastewater. (Lloyd roz /Wikimedia Commons)
November 29, 2016

COLD SPRING HARBOR, N.Y. – Grant money and matching funds totaling almost $260,000 will fund a demonstration project using plant life to treat waste water on Long Island. The project is designed to show that a natural alternative to traditional waste treatment in cesspools can effectively remove chemicals, pathogens and nitrogen from wastewater.

Christopher Clapp, a marine scientist on Long Island with The Nature Conservancy, said the project, to be constructed in Cold Spring Harbor, will start by measuring the pollutants flowing into the watershed right now.

"After the system gets installed we will be continuing to track and monitor a whole fleet of pollutants including pharmaceuticals and personal care products, organic compounds that might be used in cleaning," he explained.

The project is one of 25 being funded this year by the Long Island Futures Fund, a program of the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation.

The project also is expected to reduce nitrogen pollution by at least 90 percent. Fertilizer runoff from farms and lawns once was thought to be the major source of nitrogen. But, according to Clapp, research now shows that most comes from residential waste.

"We had been understating the importance of septic systems to the nitrogen load," he said. "In many water bodies contributing to Long Island Sound that's where 75 percent of the nitrogen is coming from."

Nitrogen pollution can cause algal blooms in Long Island Sound that destroy fish habitat and cause shellfish like scallops, mussels and clams to become toxic to humans.

Clapp pointed out that, compared to other wastewater treatment systems, the project represents an alternative that is natural, efficient and economical.

"Created wetland systems are a tool that people have been using for a long time to treat wastewater, so we felt it best to try and bring one of those here to one of our facilities," he added.

Construction of the project is slated to begin in late spring next year.

Andrea Sears, Public News Service - NY