Suffolk County officials announced Thursday that newly approved legislation will help farms and businesses upgrade aging fuel tanks with larger, state-of-the-art systems.
County Executive Steve Bellone held a press conference at Lewin Farm in Wading River to announce the details about changes, specifically modifications to the section of the sanitary code which is designed to protect water quality.
The previous fuel storage limit allowed by law, which was first adopted in May 1985, was 250 gallons total per site, he added.
He said changes to the code, which went into effect Feb. 1, now allows farmers to install aboveground diesel tanks that store up to 1,000 gallons. The new legislation also allows dozens of farms with old single-walled tanks to upgrade their tanks to state-of-the-art double walled systems using grants available through Suffolk County Soil and Water Conservation Service.
“Our health officials over the last few months reached out to both industry and environmentalists, listened to their concerns and collaborated with them to adapt the sanitary code so that it made sense for all stakeholders,” Mr. Bellone said. “This is an example of government working at its best and this decision will result in a tremendous benefit to our farm communities in the future.”
Eric Lewin of Lewin Farms said the grant program recently helped him to replace old diesel tanks on his family’s farm with a larger and more efficient fuel storage facility.
“It was a smooth transition,” he said, thanking the county’s assistance. “We need fuel for our tractors and things have to be upgraded at some point.”
Sharon Frost, a soil district technician for the Suffolk County Soil and Water Conservation Service, said one new, 1,000-gallon tank costs about $16,000 and about 75 percent of the cost was paid through the agricultural fuel tank replacement grant program, which receives funding from the state.
She said her organization has granted over $1.3 million through the program over the last eight years to help farmers replace their aging fuel tanks.
In 2015, the program granted about $407,000 to 25 farms for upgrading 56 outdated tanks, Ms. Frost said.
Legislator Al Krupski (D-Cutchogue), a farmer himself, said he’s strongly promoted the newly adopted changes to the sanitary code and thanked Ms. Frost and other county officials for their work, which he described as “a huge benefit to our communities on the East End.”
“Farmers need to have safe fuel tanks on their land as part of their infrastructure,” he said. “The modifications will allow farmers to save on fuel costs and usage. They will also enable them to grow and serve their customers more effectively.”
Legislator William Spencer (D-Centerport), chairman of the county health committee and member of the Suffolk County Board of Health, said in a statement the new legislation is a win-win for businesses and the environment.
He said the changes will help more businesses fuel their vehicles onsite instead of “making repeated trips to service stations or frequently filling very small tanks.” In addition, he said it will reduce air pollution, fuel usage and spills that can result from repeated filling of smaller tanks.
Adrienne Esposito, executive director of Citizens Campaign for the Environment, said in a statement she also supports the new law.
“We expect that the increase in storage limits will not have a negative impact on Suffolk County’s groundwater due to stringent design requirements, inspection and additional controls required on these tanks,” she said.
Top photo: Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone, center, with Legislator Al Krupski, right, at Thursday’s press conference Lewin Farm. (Credit: Jen Nuzzo)