Because it’s not something that’s very visible to the untrained eye — or even, really, the trained eye — deteriorating water quality can go overlooked and underemphasized. When you start talking about nitrogen content in water in parts per billion, it doesn’t quite demand the attention that, for instance, asbestos dumped in a children’s playground might.
But our environment’s health — and with that, it can be argued, our own health — is slowly regressing nonetheless. It’s not a matter of whether red or brown tide will strike each year, but when and where and how seriously. Aside from the long-term threat to our drinking water aquifer, polluted water means less abundant marine life in the Sound and bays, which means more seafood coming in from elsewhere. For an area that takes great pride in its local food production, sustaining our local waters should be no different from preserving our farmland.
And so it’s very encouraging to see a creative — and practical — solution being pitched to work toward improving East End water quality.
Aimed at altering the exact legislation that has protected thousands upon thousands of acres of farmland across the five eastern Suffolk towns, Assemblyman Fred Thiele’s proposal to allocate funds from the Peconic Bay Community Preservation Fund to improve water quality is the kind of idea we should see more frequently from local lawmakers. Much remains to be seen, as a formal proposal has yet to be made, and the devil is often in the details. But in a political environment that seems to favor studying solutions rather than actually executing and solving problems, this is a great first step.
Opponents may decry an extension on yet another tax — in this case, 2 percent on most real estate transfers — but some of those very same opponents were up in arms when the CPF was first proposed and enacted in the late 1990s, painting a picture of a real estate market that would tumble with the added tax. The reality is that 2 percent tax has played an integral role in separating the East End from the rest of Long Island and defining it as a beautiful place to live. It’s safe to say that the local real estate market has fared just fine during the past 15 years.
On the surface, a proposal to use CPF revenues to clean up local waters may have just as positive an impact on our water as it has on our farmland and open space — and end up making the East End an even better place for generations to come.
We look forward to a full proposal.