Since purchasing the 30,000-square-foot St. Ursula’s Retreat Center on Middle Road, Bayport-Blue Point Library seeks funding to upgrade the two sanitation systems here to an alternative and innovative system that significantly decreases nitrogen discharge. A system of this kind at this location has been estimated at a $1.2 million price tag.
“If we are going to spend that much money, why wouldn’t we put in the extra few bucks for the I/A system?” said Mike Firestone, the library’s director. “It makes a lot of sense on a lot of levels. That is why the board is committed whether the county awards us a grant or not. They are going forward with it because they believe it is the right thing to do.”
The library has requested $250,000 through the Suffolk County Water Quality Protection and Restoration Program, and this application is sponsored by Legis. Rob Calarco.
“They may be the first library to do a project like this,” Calarco said, adding that, although the acquired parcel resides just outside his legislative jurisdiction, BBP Library directly benefits the community he serves. “It is a great opportunity to get advanced treatment and get a system that is going to be far better for our environment. It is also a way for us to start making that transition that needs to be made away from traditional septic systems and cesspools.”
Considering the eight-acre parcel’s proximity to the Great South Bay as well as Stillman Creek and a nearby pond, two environmental advocacy groups and two local civic associations have submitted written support that were submitted in conjunction with the application to the county.
Innovative and alternative on-site wastewater treatment systems have become the ultimate recommendation for sanitation systems for homeowners to mitigate nitrogen pollution. The switch from a traditional septic system has even been mandated, in some cases. Additionally, the county offers financial support of up to $10,000 for homeowners pursuing this type of overhaul.
Marshall Brown, executive director of Save the Great South Bay, said there needs to be more pursuit of this kind in the commercial sphere in order to maximize water-quality improvement on Long Island.
“The first wave of this has been focused on the homeowner,” Marshall said. “But logically the next step up the ladder is for larger-capacity systems that can serve a broader use, in particular, since it is doubtful that sewering everywhere will be the answer for these larger establishments.
“What I like about the fact that it would be at the Bayport-Blue Point Library is that it can really serve as a showcase to educate the public as to the importance of these systems. The library itself is a new build and is, in my view and certainly with our support, coalescing into a community center where not only would this be a real boon to the bay to have a larger-scale system in operation at this facility near to the bay but to have it as a model to the public as to what the future of the South Shore has to be in order to save the bay.”
Save the Great South Bay also submitted written support for the project, as well as the Nature Conservancy of Long Island. Chris Clapp, a marine scientist at the organization, said that a priority of the Nature Conservancy for the last decade has been to prevent pollutants from entering groundwater and surface waters in Suffolk County.
“This priority is informed by the information gathered during the restoration efforts in the Great South Bay, a past WQPRP project, that failed due to the overwhelming impacts of nitrogen pollution from cesspools and septic systems,” reads the letter. “This project [submitted by BBP Library] sits within proximity to that original project area, and while only a single upgrade, it will be in a highly visible public space that can help continue to raise awareness as to the need to upgrade our wastewater infrastructure.”
Clapp said that when the organization was approached in request for a letter of support for the application, the Nature Conservancy reviewed each of the 20 other applications submitted for WQPRP funding and concluded that the BBP library project best suited their support and recommendation.
“Upgrading these spaces can get a large flow in a concentrated place. Anything we can do collectively in that respect is a good thing, and there is no other way right now to address [financial concerns for a project of this kind] except for this county program so it becomes the de facto funding source,” Clapp added.
Firestone said that the support from the environmental groups, alongside support from Bayport Civic Association and Blue Point Community Coalition, has been integral toward moving the project along and recommendations regarding what exactly should be implemented here.
“When you think about libraries and schools, germane to our missions is disseminating information and educating residents for what their educational needs are,” Firestone said. “To me, this just goes hand-in-hand, and that is why I feel passionate but strong that this should be the model. I hope that the county sees it like that, but money is tight.”
Firestone also mentioned that there are other avenues of funding in the hopper, particularly referencing a $300,000 request through a state agency.
“We are always looking for other grants and other relationships to build to try and get some private funds. Most of the money will come through local taxes. That is where the public referendum comes in, and the public has to know how much [we] think this is going to cost us,” he said, continuing on to say that borrowing rates for the library have trended downwards to 1.06 percent interest.
He said that if the funding is secured as planned and everything goes smoothly, the shovel will hit the ground by May 1, and construction would take 12 to 14 months.
“If it was a brand new building, we would probably have 22 to 28 months,” Firestone said. “Plus we won’t really be prohibited by weather because [the majority of the work] is indoors. Ninety-plus percent is inside the current building.” n