Great Neck Water Pollution Control District Commissioner Steve Reiter, who is running unopposed for re-election this year, reflected on past achievements in the district and looked to what lies in store during an interview with Blank Slate Media last week.
Reiter, a Great Neck resident for more than four decades, said helping secure $12 million in grant funding for various upgrades to district facilities is one of the things he is most proud of during his eight years as commissioner. The funding, he said, allowed the district to create the county’s first grease-receiving station, conduct upgrades to its sewage treatment facilities and add a third microturbine.
“You do these additions and they go a long way in ensuring that the facility will remain in the forefront of wastewater treatment technology for years to come,” Reiter said. “We’re protecting the environment through sustainable practices, so it confirms our commitment to supplying, I think, the best possible service at the lowest possible cost to our taxpayers.”
Planning and research for these projects began more than a decade ago, he said. After the state’s Department of Environmental Conservation approved the projects, he said, the district began laying the groundwork for the grease reception station.
The addition of grease to the digesters allows the anaerobic tanks to further break down organic matter without oxygen, with the main product being methane. Reiter said the methane is then fed into the microturbines, which results in renewable energy for the facility.
District officials announced in August that their environmental efforts had also prevented more than 217,000 pounds of excess nitrogen from entering the Manhasset Bay since 2014.
The need to avoid excess nitrogen in bodies of water such as the Manhasset Bay is due to the far-reaching impacts it has, along with phosphorus, on ecosystems. The combination of too much nitrogen and phosphorus allows algae to grow faster than the ecosystems can handle, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.
“As a waterfront community, it is vital that we limit the amount of nitrogen that goes into our natural environment, and we are proud to say that the district does so in ways that far exceed expectations,” Reiter said. “Our treatment facility is always running efficiently and effectively, and this is a testament to the hard work of our employees and superintendent.”
After updating the treatment facility several years ago, the district is now able to treat waste and remove nitrogen at a much higher level. The district has also eliminated septic tank usage throughout the district by connecting businesses and residential homes. The district has connected the Americana shopping center to its system.
In terms of working to receive state and federal grants, Reiter referred to his previous work as the owner of SMP Creative Media, a communications company which exposed him to the sales and marketing departments of major corporations around the New York area.
“My business before I retired was putting presentations together for sales and marketing companies, so with the expertise of the staff and my experience, we were able to have people come in and present to them and show what we had already accomplished and what we wanted to do,” Reiter said.
Earlier this year, the district was awarded a $150,000 grant to conduct a sewer feasibility study that could incorporate homes in the Village of Great Neck Estates and Harbor Hills into its collection system. Reiter said the results from the study have not come back yet but if they are positive, the district will apply for more grants to conduct that incorporation process. Reiter said people with failing septic systems have reached out to the district, asking if they can be incorporated into its system.
“As opposed to replacing a septic system, which we know is not the optimal way of getting rid of nitrogen, I think it would be in everybody’s interest to see whether or not we could accomplish doing that,” he said.
Reiter touted the work of other commissioners and the district’s staff over the years, emphasizing all of its achievements are a result of the entire team. Reiter said he wants the public to know he is committed to ensuring all of the ongoing and future projects undertaken by the district will be accomplished.
“Myself, the commissioners, the staff and everyone involved want to work to move the district forward in a positive direction,” Reiter said.
The election will take place on Tuesday, Dec. 14, at the district office at 236 East Shore Road in Great Neck from 1 to 9 p.m.