Recently, Clifford Sondock wrote a letter to the editor in Newsday regarding Long Island’s groundwater. The letter can be read below in italics, as well as here on Newsday.com. My response follows.
Why the alarm over Long Island’s water supply? There is no water problem except the need for more sewers and water treatment.
Long Island is blessed with an abundant supply of water in its enormous aquifer, enough water to substantially increase Long Island’s population. We need more real estate development to increase the tax base.
“Water problems” are a red herring used by anti-growth, pseudo-environmentalists who seek to stop development.
The cost to install sewers and water treatment facilities is small compared with the potential increase in the tax base from development — higher density, taller buildings.
There is no water problem. The problem is Long Island’s resistance to change and growth.
Sondock is correct in saying that “Long Island is blessed with an abundant supply of water in its enormous aquifer…” He is incorrect in the rest of the statement “…enough water to substantially increase Long Island’s population.”
You see, what Sondock fails to realize is that yes, while there is more than enough water in terms of quantity in both Nassau and Suffolk, the quality of the water is the true issue environmentalists, News 12 and Newsday focused on. Long Island has ample room for future development, but that does not mean that it would be prudent to reach maximum build out on Long Island.
Further, Sondock calls the water problem “a red herring”. This claim has been refuted by the US EPA, the 1978 208 Study and countless other urban planning standards. Long Island’s aquifer served as a proving grounds for the creation of land use policies designed specifically to protect the aquifer system that have been emulated across the nation.
Sondock is right to advocate for the expansion of sewers, but as with any other planning solution, they are far from a perfect solution. In fact, his faith in wastewater treatment is misplaced. Sewers only work if they are regulated, and due to fiscal constraints both Suffolk County and New York State don’t have the manpower to fully regulate our existing infrastructure, yet alone the expansion Sondock advocates for. Plus, the cost of retrofitting Suffolk County is astronomical. While necessary, expansion of the sewer network will take decades. As loyal readers already know, sewers paired with more density and taller buildings isn’t necessarily the answer to our regional woes.
While Sondock is entitled to his opinion, he doesn’t have the foggiest idea when it comes to regional land use and sound planning principles. Simply put- land use impacts our water, sewers help but are far from perfect, and the best way to protect our water is through sound planning.