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Referendum on Suffolk County water quality 'in the hands of the voters'

A trickle of water comes out of the faucet.
Steve Helber
A trickle of water comes out of the faucet.

Suffolk County voters get to choose this November about whether to fund a water quality improvement plan through a tax increase. If approved, sales tax will increase an eighth of a percent to fund long-term infrastructure projects like replacing septic tanks with sewer systems. 

The effort to get the measure on the ballot has taken years. Environmental groups, labor leaders and elected officials across the political spectrum have voiced their support.

“Clean water isn't just about the environment," Fred Thiele, Jr. (D-Sag Harbor) said at Monday's signing ceremony that placed the referendum on the ballot. "It's about the economy, no matter what aspect of our local economy you talk about. And certainly, that's the case on the east end with farming, and fishing, and tourism — all depend on clean water.” 

A "yes" vote on the ballot measure authorizes the county to enact a 1/8-cent sales tax increase. The revenue — projected to reach $3 billion over the coming decades — will support a range of projects to reduce nitrogen pollution in surface and groundwater, including the creation of a wastewater management district and an overhaul of aging septic systems.

County Executive Ed Romaine said the county's future is now in the voters' hands and urged them to pass the measure in November.

"I expect in the next few years that we are going to be doing upwards of half a billion dollars of sewers over the next few years," he said.

Desiree reports on the lives of military service members, veterans, and their families for WSHU as part of the American Homefront project. Born and raised in Connecticut, she now calls Long Island home.