The Town of Huntington recently completed construction of a rain garden bioswale at Centerport Beach, a project aimed at filtering 80 percent of the stormwater runoff there that has been polluting Centerport Harbor.
The $276,210 project, partially funded through a $137,322 grant from the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation’s Long Island Sound Futures Fund, was installed on what had been 6,900 square feet of parking lot at the Town beach and included planting 75 trees and eight types of native plants as well as installing paths made of permeable pavers. The height of the curbing – lower on the south side and higher on the north – was set to trap stormwater before it runs into Centerport Harbor.
That is important because as rainwater and melting snow flow across roads, parking lots, rooftops and other impervious surfaces, they pick up harmful pollutants such as heavy metals, oil, pesticides, sediment and pet waste that ultimately end up on beaches and in bays. This polluted runoff is one of the leading causes of pollution to area waters.
The bioswale and permeable pavers capture the runoff. Once the water enters the bioswale, it slowly seeps into the soil and, as it filters through the roots of the plantings in the bioswale, a majority of the pollutants are removed. The water then undergoes a secondary filtration through a layer of sand, gravel or rock.
“People may look at the rain garden and think it was built purely for aesthetic reasons,” Huntington Supervisor Frank P. Petrone said. “Actually, the Town has created a natural filter for water that will go a long way toward helping to clean up Centerport Harbor. This project is a great next step in continuing the work of the Northport Harbor Water Quality Protection Committee to restore a waterway that is an important source of recreation and commerce in our community.”
Among the expected benefits of the project are a reduction in the number and severity of harmful algal blooms that have been the direct cause of hypoxia in the harbor, and the closure of shellfish beds from commercial harvesting due to the presence of a particular bloom of algae. Cleaner water entering the harbor will also result in a reduction in the number of and severity of pathogen levels that have closed area beaches to swimming and closed shellfish beds to harvesting by commercial baymen whose livelihoods have been adversely affected by the degradation of water quality.
As part of the federal grant, the Town is partnering with the Citizens Campaign for the Environment on a public information campaign to make the public aware of the project and its environmental benefits. Citizen’s Campaign will be preparing an on-site information kiosk about the project and is working with the Town on a video explaining the project and its benefits. They plan to disseminate the video through various social media channels.
“Replacing a section of the parking lot with a beautiful vegetative area will not only improve water quality and water clarity, it will increase the scenic beauty of this wonderful beach. This is a small project with a big impact. This project will filter stormwater pollutants, help in the fight against toxic algae blooms and protect public health. This green infrastructure is a model for other coastal communities to replicate. It’s cost effective and environmentally meaningful. Congratulations to Huntington Town,” said Adrienne Esposito, Citizen’s Campaign executive director.
The project is the latest outgrowth of work done by the Northport Harbor Water Quality Protection Committee, which Supervisor Petrone and Ms. Esposito co-chair. Formed in 2010, the Committee’s members include elected officials from the Town and the incorporated villages of Northport and Asharoken; federal, state and Suffolk County officials and agencies; representatives from local yacht clubs and interested citizens.
The committee has met steadily and has studied ways to restore Northport Harbor and other adjacent waters to good health. In October 2010, the committee issued a draft action plan. The plan included a series of short-, medium- and long-term initiatives and suggestions about how various levels of government could work together and how to seek funding to implement the recommendations.
Among the committee’s accomplishments are fostering creation of the six-member Northport Harbor Water Quality Protection Inter-Municipal Council, whose members arel the Supervisor, the mayors of Asharoken and Northport and one additional representative from each of the three respective municipalities. The Council has the legal authority to apply for state and federal funds, as well as the legal authority to apply for state and federal funds in order to conduct studies, develop management plans, provide educational services and coordinate water quality protection and enhancement programs.
Among the committee’s other accomplishments are that it:
- Developed uniform codes that were enacted by Northport, Asharoken and the Town.
- Initiated a pilot program for eel grass restoration
- Conducted a dye test for the Centerport Sewer District and a video survey of the Centerport Harbor Circle sewer line to identify the source of contamination
- Helped the state Department of Environmental Conservation and Northport Village work together to inspect intertidal zone for repairing he sewer line and got Northport to agree upgrade its waste collection system by repairing the two sewer pipes exposed at low tide.
- Worked with U.S. Sen.Kirsten Gillibrand and Rep. Steve Israel’s office to obtain a grant to continue and expand water testing for toxic Red Tide.
- Helped obtain a Suffolk County funding to upgrade the Northport sewer plant