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Town and County Announce Clean Water Initiative Plan

Storm Drain Inserts Help Prevent Pollution in the Bays and Harbors

At a press conference on August 2 in front of Manhasset Bay, North Hempstead Town Supervisor Jon Kaiman announced a strategic partnership with Nassau County as part of its ongoing effort to keep area waterways clean. Known as the Clean Water Initiative Plan, this project will help to decrease the pollution caused by stormwater runoff and therefore, further the current efforts to protect coastal waters, which are a major source of commerce and recreation.

The Town of North Hempstead had previously applied for and was awarded funding through the 2006 Nassau County Environmental Bond Act to purchase, install and maintain storm drain inserts in areas throughout the town. These inserts will help filter sediments, oils, and other pollutants out of the storm water runoff, which should improve the water quality of Manhasset Bay and Hempstead Harbor.

The storm drain inserts were purchased from Fabco Industries, based nearby in Jericho. According to Fabco Industries, their patented catch basin insert products help to eliminate a broad range of pollutants from heavy metals, oils/hydrocarbons, to bacteria and organics. Jeff Fulmer, watershed and regulatory coordinator at Fabco Industries, attended the press conference and expressed his appreciation for the partnership of town, county, and local committees to implement green infrastructure by installing these water quality treatment systems throughout the area.

Town Supervisor Jon Kaiman stated that this initiative has the potential to be a great success. “The wheels of government grind slowly, and in 2006, we started a process where we were looking to utilize new technology that could help our community,” he said, adding that one of their concerns was about the waterways, pollution, and the environment. Kaiman further explained these concerns, saying, “When stormwater goes through our roads and properties, it does have the potential to become contaminated. It picks up oils, sediments, and other pollutants that leach into the water that we’re trying to protect. So when our stormwater, unfiltered, ends up in the bay, we end up with contaminated water.”

Kaiman noted that the town has done several projects with the federal and state governments to create natural filters to protect the waterways from stormwater contamination, such as adding plants to the shoreline. While the natural filters have helped, he said that the town learned that they needed additional filters, which is what led them to partner with the county through the Environmental Bond Act to obtain the storm drain filters.

Town Councilman Fred Pollack said that the town has been working together with the county and the state for about 15 or 20 years to try to find a way to clean up Manhasset Bay and Hempstead Harbor. He noted that many steps have been taken already, and that the water quality of area waterways has already improved significantly. “This is yet another step to enable us to keep Manhasset Bay and Hempstead Harbor cleaner by keeping stormwater pollution out of the bays and out of the harbors,” Pollack said. “We are not only doing this today at Manhasset Bay, but we are also going to be installing the filters at Hempstead Harbor,” he added, noting the important work of Eric Swenson, executive director of the Hempstead Harbor Protection Committee.

Nassau County Legislator Wayne Wink spoke about the importance and unfortunately, the rarity, of local governments cooperating with each other. He said, “This is in fact, a very good opportunity to not only describe the environmental benefits here, but to celebrate the coordination of different levels of government.”

Wink noted that groups within the community have been very proactive and years ahead of the curve when it came to protecting local waterways. He said that a few years ago, logos stating “No Dumping-Drains to Bay” were added to the tops of storm drains in Port Washington – a project that was implemented by the Manhasset Bay Protection Committee and funded through grants. In speaking about the storm drain filters, Wink said, “This is less obvious but it is a more effective vehicle to mature the continued improvement of our bays and harbors. You’re not going see this as you’re driving by, but the effects are going to be seen for decades and generations to come.” He added, “I am very happy that Nassau County can cooperate this effort and that Nassau County can provide the funds necessary to acquire and help install some of these catch basin inserts where appropriate. The town will be working with us going forward to maintain them throughout our watershed area.”

North Hempstead’s use of this technology will help to protect and improve water quality consistent with the objectives of the Long Island Sound Study and the work of the Manhasset Bay Protection Committee. Jennifer Wilson-Pines of the Manhasset Bay Protection Committee explained that the committee has been working together cooperatively with the town and the county since 1997 to improve the water quality of Manhasset Bay. She stated that the watershed of Manhasset Bay is about 10,000 acres, which is smaller than others. However, she said that since it is more concentrated and very highly developed, there is a greater need to implement filters to protect the water quality.

Mike Guinnane, co-owner of Louie’s Oyster Bar and Grill in Port Washington, said that he is grateful for the opportunity to have a business that is able to take advantage of beautiful Manhasset Bay. “There needs to be a symbiotic relationship between business and government in order for both to succeed,” he said, adding that a project like this will help benefit residents and businesses alike. Kaiman echoed Mr. Guinnane’s sentiments, stating that there is an obligation on local governments to make sure that area waterways thrive in the future in order to continue economic development in local businesses such as Louie’s, which uses the natural resource of Manhasset Bay.