All Things Political: Improving Long Island’s poor air quality

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All Things Political: Improving Long Island’s poor air quality

There are few things more refreshing than a deep breath of clean air. We all take clean air for granted, but, without it, life would cease to thrive.

Unfortunately, the future necessity of Long Island’s clean air needs to be planned for and protected, or it won’t always be there.
Take, for example, the poor planning of infrastructure for Long Island’s sewer system.

No one took into account the rapid population growth, which started in the 1950s. Back then, cesspools were much cheaper to install than hooking up to sewer systems.

Today, nearly 70 percent of the North Shore of Nassau County, and more than 70 percent of all of Suffolk County, use septic systems.

Sadly, the nitrogen from all these septic systems poses a threat to our groundwater and creates algae blooms that choke our waterways.

Every time there’s a substantial rainfall, untreated stormwater run-off results in high bacteria levels that closes our precious beaches.

The cost to fix this problem on Long Island has been estimated to be about $10 billion. Long Island needs to learn from the consequences of these historical actions: Without proper planning and investment, Long Island’s air quality is next on pollution’s chopping block.
Most people don’t realize – the air we currently breathe is already polluted.

Last May, the American Lung Association gave Nassau and Suffolk’s air quality a grade of D, because of the quantity of sooty, foul air.

Suffolk County actually received an F, for the worst ground-level ozone in the state. Ground-level ozone (different from atmospheric ozone) is a by-product of emissions from cars, trucks and powers plants, a lung irritant, and dangerous for those with asthma, bronchitis and emphysema.

There are two pollution monitoring stations in Suffolk County, but in Nassau County ground-level ozone isn’t measured. I guess in Nassau the thought process is, if you don’t measure it, it isn’t a problem.
Regrettably, Long Island was developed without proper long-term community planning.

As a result, the cost to remedy our sewage treatment infrastructure is extraordinary. Thankfully, there are cost-effective solutions to protect air quality before it’s too late.
The Town of Hempstead, under Supervisor Laura Gillen’s capable direction and leadership, is in the midst of a massive Energy Performance Contract.

The goal is to get as many large buildings throughout the Town to work together to change their lighting to LED, and to install solar panels.

LED lighting uses up to 80 percent less energy than incandescent lighting.

Solar panels pay for themselves through lower energy bills and Federal and New York State tax incentives in about seven years. Solar Panels also return an impressive 14 percent on investment with additional savings for years long after the original expense of purchasing them.

The more green and efficient sources of power generation the town helps create, the less we rely on polluting, carbon-based energy.
Open space in the Town of Hempstead for solar panels, such as the 120-acre Oceanside landfill and Town of Hempstead municipal building rooftops are under-realized assets. Another example of a significantly underutilized asset can be found in Nassau County schools.

To put it in perspective, Nassau County’s 56 public school districts, plus parochial schools, have available rooftops estimated at roughly 15 million square feet, equivalent to just under 350 acres.

Installation of solar panels has improved to the point where it no longer poses a threat to roof warranties, so this valuable asset is ready to be exploited.
The Town of Hempstead’s large EPC has drawn the attention of most of the major players in the market.

As the Town of Hempstead deputy supervisor of economic development and economic efficiency, I am working to coordinate as many groups as possible to join our EPC to help with economies of scale and to drive down cost.

Clean air through upgrading lighting systems to LED and installing solar panels is a cost-effective no-brainer.

We need to proactively work together to protect the air we breathe.

If we fail to plan for our future, our air will surely suffer the same fate as our groundwater and beaches. Failure should not be an option.

 

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