By Anthony Leon, Ryan Ferguson and Matthew Rainis
A public hearing is scheduled for March 9 to update Oakdale residents on a sewer project designed to prevent cesspools from leaching nitrogen into the bay. The Oakdale Sewer Project, which will send wastewater to the Southwest Sewer District for processing, is scheduled to break ground construction in late 2021.
The hearing will offer the community a question and answer period and new information about the Oakdale Sewer Project.
“Cesspools and some other older septic systems can affect the environment in several ways,” Ohio State University environmental health graduate, Andrew Knecht said. “Nitrogen, largely from ammonia can be released from these systems into surface waters. Many marine species such as shellfish cannot survive in water with high nitrogen concentration. High concentrations of nitrogen can also cause harmful algae blooms which produce toxins impacting marine life and can even be toxic to humans if exposed.”
Oakdale received a $26.4 million grant on Feb. 8, 2019 to build a new sewer system. The grant will connect 400 homes to the existing Southwest Sewer System. In a town that sustained flood damage from Hurricane Sandy in 2012, residents in Oakdale have long relied on cesspools for waste management where the flooding poses a threat to the quality of life, sources say.
“I think there’s some mixed opinions still, but for the most part people understand that it’s really necessary for a number of things,” Oakdale Civic Association President Carol Schwasnick said. “I think the biggest driver is the mass quality of life issue down there.”
Only 26% of Suffolk County is connected to sewers, while that number in Nassau County is 85%. There have been three plans for sewer systems in Suffolk over the past couple of years, a variety of budgeting obstacles have prevented these plans from becoming reality.
“I’ve seen people up at the Oakdale 7-Eleven asking residents to sign a petition for the Oakdale Sewer Project,” Brady Charles, an Oakdale resident, said. “I didn’t sign it, I don’t know enough about the project to have an opinion, but what I do know is that they have a poor way of sharing the project’s goal to the public.”
The project has proven divisive. Many Oakdale residents have strong opinions regarding the move. Some cite environmental concerns as their reason for supporting the project.
“I’m for the Oakdale Sewer Project,” Lisa Romaner, an Oakdale resident, said. “It would be good for the environment, I think it would help the town when it floods here too.”
Other residents are more open to the idea of the Oakdale Sewer Project. “I think that the sewers would be good for Oakdale,” Lois Stamford, an Oakdale resident, said. “We used to have sewers back when I lived in Elmont, Nassau County.” “The only concern would be the raise in taxes.” P.W. Grosser Consultants, the association managing the project, claim a home having an assessed value of $47,500, the combination of debt service, distract charges and electrical charges would add up to an additional $850.38 per year.
Some residents who have lived in Oakdale for several years are blind to the plans of this project. “As long-time residents of Oakdale, my husband and I are in the dark when it comes to the Oakdale Sewer Project,” Josephine Robles, an Oakdale resident, said. “We don’t know much about the project, and after living here for more than 40 years, the project could be more information to Oakdale residents.”
The March 9 Oakdale Civic Association meeting will occur in the library at the Amity University Campus in Oakdale at 7:30pm. The meeting will cover community topics and focus on informing Oakdale residents about the Oakdale Sewer Project. The project design is expected to be completed by mid 2021.