Study: Riverhead sewage treatment plant makes the grade

Riverhead Town received high marks from an environmental advocacy group that released a study on Monday showing how well towns across Long Island manage their sewage treatment plants.

The study, called “Sewage in the Suburbs: Long Island’s First Sewage Treatment Plant Report Card,” lists Riverhead as the fourth most responsible municipality among 10 towns operating sewage treatment plants. The town was given a “B” grade in the report.

Adrienne Esposito, executive director of Citizens Campaign for the Environment, the Farmingdale-based environmental advocacy group that conducted the study, said Riverhead received high marks because it supports a federal law requiring public notification of sewage spills, gives tours of its sewer treatment plant and uses an ultra violet treatment to disinfect sewage.

“The bottom line is sewers are a necessity, not a luxury,” Ms. Esposito said. “We have to plan for our needs. Many are outdated and need to be updated because they are degrading our quality of life and our drinking water.”

The sewage treatment plant in Riverhead, which received its latest upgrade in 2000, began operating in 1936. It serves about 9,000 people. Ms. Esposito said while Riverhead’s treatment plant capacity is 1.2 million gallons per day, it processes about 1 million gallons of sewage per day.

“It’s running under capacity, which we’re happy about,” she said.

Ms. Esposito said Riverhead can improve its operations by implementing an assessment management plan, a financial plan that budgets for sewer plant upgrades and maintenance. In addition, Riverhead lost points because its sewage treatment plant hasn’t undergone an energy efficiency audit.

Riverhead Town Supervisor Sean Walter said the town’s sewage treatment plant energy audit is part of a plan to build a windmill at the facility. As for a financial plan, Mr. Walter said he’s working on it.

“We don’t have a financial plan, because we don’t have any money,” he said, adding that the town hopes to upgrade the plant if it can scrape together another $9 million. Mr. Walter said he’s looking into securing state grants in order to outfit the facility with the latest technology.

“We’re looking forward to being number one,” Mr. Walter said.

The Town of Huntington boasted the highest marks in the study, receiving an “A+.” Suffolk County’s Bergen Point sewer district in West Babylon and the Village of Patchogue sewage treatment plants were the only others included in the study to receive a higher mark than Riverhead.

Nassau County’s plants in Bay Park and Long Beach, as well as Stony Brook University’s plant, which is operated by Suffolk County, received the lowest scores because they received numerous permit violations and lack a public notification procedure when untreated or partially treated sewage is released into the ground. Low marks were also given to towns found without storm water management, energy efficiency, public education and climate change adaptation plans.
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Sewage in the Suburbs: Long Island’s First Sewage Treatment Plant Report Card