James Minet, left, is joined by Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone and James' father Robert Minet as they watch a septic system being installed in front of their Nesconset home in 2015. The family was one of the winners in a lottery to have the septic system installed. Photo Credit: James Carbone

Environmental groups push property tax or water hike for septic improvements on Long Island Sound

The groups said the average annual cost to homeowners would be $75 for a tax increase, or $110 or higher for a water fee. But there's no guarantee the proposal will make it onto the November ballot.

Environmental groups are pushing for a Suffolk County ballot measure that would raise $70 million a year through either property taxes or water bills to combat nitrogen in waterways by improving wastewater treatment.

The groups submitted ballot language to the county attorney's office March 8 that will ask voters to approve a property tax line dedicated to grants for nitrogen-removing septic systems, sewer expansions and sewage treatment plant improvements.

Separately, the groups have circulated among civic and environmental organizations a draft letter to county lawmakers asking them to support a referendum on a property tax or a fee on water usage.

"The Long Island that many of us grew up with is being killed by sewage — and we must act to fix the problem now," according to the letter from four Long Island environmental groups that formed the Long Island Clean Water Partnership.

Acorrding to advocates, average homeowners would pay about $75 a year under both scenarios, though the Suffolk County Water Authority estimated the costs for a water fee would be $110 or higher for the average residential water user.

The proposals face skepticism from county lawmakers and Suffolk County Water Authority officials concerned about imposing additional costs on Suffolk residents.

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