Melville, N.Y. — H2M architects + engineers participated in completion of a historic Water Resource Recovery Project, an innovative water resource recovery project undertaken in a partnership with The Town of Riverhead and Suffolk County. For the first time ever on Long Island, reclaimed, treated sewage is being used for off-hours irrigation at the Indian Island County Golf Course. H2M provided a full range of engineering services for the completion of this project.
The Town of Riverhead, Suffolk County, The Peconic Estuary Program, U.S. Department of Environmental Conservation, and Elected Officials from New York State, Suffolk County and the Town of Riverhead along with environmental advocacy organizations were all present at the ceremony.
The water resource recovery project diverts 1.4 tons of nitrogen per year from the Peconic River, providing a long term strategy towards conserving potable water and protecting the Peconic Estuary. By reusing about 350,000 gallons of highly treated wastewater each summer day to irrigate the Indian Island Golf Course, the Town of Riverhead and Suffolk County have adopted a new paradigm to reclaim waters. This type of project has never been seen before on Long Island.
Nutrients, like nitrogen, have been scientifically proven to cause harmful algal blooms and contribute to fish kills. Nitrogen applied to the golf course helps to reduce the amount of fertilizer, thereby reducing the nitrogen load contributed by surface water runoff. Projected sea level rise will hasten aquifer contamination caused by salt water intrusion, so reduction in the amount of water drawn using groundwater supply wells serve well to delay aquifer degradation.
The public often refers to plants that treat sewage as “sewage treatment plants”. The shift toward water reclamation and the high levels of treatment required to produce a reusable product have required a concerted effort to change public perception. The Riverhead Water Resource Recovery Facility is a state-of-the art $23.5 million project designed to treat 1,500,000 gallons of wastewater making this one of the most advanced wastewater treatment and reclamation facility in New York.
H2M provided services such as preliminary studies, designs, construction administration, construction inspection, process assistance, systems integration, and assistance in coordination between the Indian Island County Golf Course and the Riverhead Sewage District.
“We at H2M are both proud and greatly appreciative to have been able to create such a strong partnership with the Town of Riverhead over the past 30 years. Being a part of the Town’s sustainability vision for water reuse has allowed us to witness firsthand the culmination of years of commitment and dedication by the Town of Riverhead to the protection of our water quality and our environmental resources. The Town should not only be commended for its groundbreaking vision, but should be held up as a model for other municipalities throughout our region that have similar opportunity to achieve sustainable water reuse within their communities. We are thrilled to have been able to play our part.” said Rich Humann, CEO and President of H2M architects + engineers.
“H2M is privileged to work alongside the Town, County, State and USEPA, and in particular Superintended Michael Reichel, in making the Riverhead Water Resource Recovery Facility the first on Long Island to recycle highly treated wastewater to irrigate the County’s Indian Island Golf Course. It has been an honor to be a part of this ground breaking project.” said Frank M. Russo P.E., Wastewater Engineering Division Director of H2M’s architects + engineers.
Michael P. Reichel Superintendent of Riverhead Sewer District added “Reusing treated wastewater for golf course irrigation is done all over the country, but mostly in arid states like California, Florida, and Arizona. It makes sense to reuse water that we already have out of the ground. The driving force behind this project is to reduce the nitrogen loading going into the Peconic Estuary, by diverting it to the golf course is the true meaning of a win/win.”
“Completion of the Town of Riverhead’s Sewage Treatment Plant upgrade will help reduce nitrogen pollution in the Peconic Estuary, one of two nationally recognized estuaries on Long Island, to help safeguard our environment and improve our water quality. Over the years, water quality on Long Island has suffered severely. Upgrading the sewage system in Riverhead will help ensure that our waterways and ecosystems are protected and preserved.” stated Lee Zeldin, Congressman.
“This project demonstrates that team work, ingenuity, and commitment can result in truly creative cutting edge solutions. The Town of Riverhead and all those who all a part in this initiative should be commended for developing an innovative project that will benefit our estuary, sea grasses and shellfish in the future. As the Senator for the First District in New York, I am proud to once again witness a solution coming out of our region that will serve as an environmental model for the rest of the country.” added Kenneth P. LaValle.
“Long Island’s nitrogen crisis is real. The headwaters of the Peconic Estuary have been plagued by algal blooms, fish kills, and decimated sea grasses and shellfish populations for years. Not only will this effluent reuse program improve the water quality of this sensitive and critical section of the Peconics, it will benefit the entire East End-we all swim, fish, and boat in these same estuarine waters. While additional efforts are still necessary to reduce nitrogen loading, the Town of Riverhead and all of the partners who made this possible are to be commended for their persistence and hard work, setting the stage for an innovative project that will serve as an example throughout the country.” emphasizes Fred W. Thiele Jr., New York State Assemblyman.
“This historic project will reduce the need to pump water from our sole source aquifer to irrigate the County’s golf course while at the same time reducing the discharge of effluent from the Town’s wastewater plant into the Peconic Estuary, providing multiple environmental benefits,” said Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone. “Through hard work and cooperation, the County and the Town of Riverhead have implemented the first large scale water reuse project of its type ever on Long Island. The County is pleased to have provided significant financial support for the Town’s successful upgrade of its wastewater treatment plant, to enhance protection of this important estuary.”
“Congratulations to the Town of Riverhead and Suffolk County for spearheading this cutting-edge initiative. Diverting thousands of gallons of post-treatment wastewater to the golf course for additional nitrogen removal sets the gold standard for water protection. Superior treatment with groundwater recharge, this is where our region needs to go with sewage management and I think it’s tremendous that Riverhead Town is leading the way.” added Kevin McAllister, President of DefendH20.
“This project represents all that is good when different levels of government work together. Suffolk County, New York State and the Town of Riverhead’s commitment to the improvement of the Peconic Estuary has allowed us to move forward with this innovative design in the treatment of wastewater and I hope will serve as a beacon for other communities. I am thankful to the men and women that are employed by the Riverhead Sewer District for their hard work and I would like to commend Superintendent Michael Reichel for his commitment to this project.” noted Sean Walter, Town of Riverhead Supervisor.
The Peconic Estuary became the 20th estuary in the nation, in 1992, to receive the designation as an “Estuary of National Significance” by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). As part of the National Estuary Program (NEP), the Peconics were charged with developing and implementing a watershed-based comprehensive management plan. A new alliance was necessary to carry out this colossal task, and the Peconic Estuary Program (PEP) was born. The PEP is an innovative partnership of local, state, and federal governments, citizen and environmental groups, businesses and industries, and academic institutions.
After years of hard work, the PEP Comprehensive Conservation and Management Plan (CCMP) was formally approved on November 15, 2001 by EPA Administrator Christine Whitman, with the concurrence of New York State Governor George Pataki. There are an ambitious 340 management tasks included in the CCMP; priority topics include Brown Tide, nutrients, habitat and living resources, pathogens, toxic pollutants, and critical lands protection.