Hauppauge, NY – (July 29, 2016) Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone and the Suffolk County Department of Health Services announced today the unanimous decision by Suffolk County Legislature to approve the amendment to the Suffolk County Sanitary Code, to add a new Article 19, "Management of Innovative and Alternative Onsite Wastewater Treatment Systems (I/A OWTS)." This amendment will allow the Department of Health Service to monitor new sewage management technologies in 39 homes that have been selected to participate in the Single Family Homeowner Septic Demonstration Pilot Program. The technologies may then be approved for more widespread use once successfully piloted. The first such systems are expected to be authorized for provisionally unrestricted use by autumn of this year.
“This is a tremendous victory for the county and an indication that our law makers recognize the importance, and are committed to resolving the county’s surface and ground water issues,” said Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone. “Since the launch of the ‘Reclaim our Water’ initiative in 2014, we have made significant strides, and we look forward to learning how these new technologies will help the county meet its goal of reducing nitrogen pollution.”
Suffolk County, New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC), the Long Island Regional Planning Council (LIRPC) and Nassau County are working in partnership with stakeholders to develop the Long Island Nitrogen Action Plan (LINAP) to reduce the level of nitrogen in the surface and ground waters around Long Island. On-site wastewater disposal from individual residents has been identified as the single largest contribution to the levels of nitrogen in Long Island waters and solutions need to be identified. Excess nitrogen has resulted in hypoxia and harmful algal blooms in our estuaries, and has impaired eelgrass beds, wetlands, and shellfisheries, and diminished our coastal resiliency. Innovative/alternative onsite sewage disposal systems is the means of addressing wastewater nitrogen discharging from residential lots that do not have access to community sewers.
To help with this priority issue, the State allocated $5.5 million from the Environmental Protection Fund over the past three years. This funding supports the Suffolk County Septic/Cesspool Upgrade Program (SCUPE). Through SCUPE, Suffolk County will evaluate the types of systems that reduce nitrogen discharges from on-site wastewater treatment systems.
“The addition of Article 19 to the Suffolk County Sanitary Code is a welcome and essential step toward mitigating pollution from individual home systems in Suffolk County,” said DEC Commissioner Basil Seggos. “I congratulate all parties who helped make this happen. We look forward to continuing to support this effort in the future.”
Article 19 will give the Department of Health Services the authority to promulgate procedures, protocols, and standards to evaluate, approve, register, oversee, and facilitate the use of I/A OWTS in the 360,000 non-performing cesspools and septic systems that account for 74% of Suffolk’s wastewater flow. Testing and monitoring of the I/A OWTS will also allow the county to determine which of the piloted systems are provisionally approved systems to be used in additional homes throughout Suffolk County.
“In a truly historic Code change,” said Walter Dawydiak, Director of Environmental Quality Suffolk County Dept. of Health Services, “Suffolk County has just authorized the first major change to residential onsite wastewater treatment technology since 1973, when a septic tank was added to a leaching pool. This is the first of many important wastewater treatment enhancements, which must occur as part of a program to arrest and reverse a trend of water quality and ecosystem degradation, and reclaim our waters.”
The Single Family Homeowner Septic Demonstration Pilot Program was launched in 2014, where the county initially selected 19 homeowners through a lottery system to receive advanced onsite wastewater treatment systems with nitrogen removal capabilities at no cost to the homeowner. The county selected another 20 homes from all 10 towns through the county’s septic lottery poll to participate in phase two of the program. The systems include free installation, monitoring and maintenance for five years.