Septic Systems and Suffolk County

Studies of Long Island’s ground water quality have time and time again shown that one of the leading causes for the influx of contaminants into our island’s watershed each year can be traced back to failing waste treatment systems which have not been properly installed or properly maintained. Pollution from failing treatment systems ultimately affects all aspects of our life on Long Island. Every body of water on and around the Island is part of our ground water system: every river, every lake, every pond, every beach and every bay. All of the areas we fish in and swim in are affected by the quality of our ground water. The discharge of untreated waste is the underlying reason for beach closings every year and is also partially responsible for the decline of our once famous shellfish and lobster breeding grounds. 

Septic Systems are a major part of Suffolk County's wastewater management infrastructure. When we typically think of sewage management, we visualize a sewer system which takes all of our household wastewater through pipes and to a sewage treatment plant. However, septic systems are quite different. A septic system, more professionally known as an Individual Residential Wastewater Treatment System, is a structure which is buried on your property that receives the wastewater on-site. Suffolk County actually has the largest number of septic systems in New York State. This can be both a benefit and a burden. When septic systems work properly, they cleanse the wastewater of pathogens, viruses and a percentage of nutrients before discharging it into the subsoil. When a septic system fails however, it can lead to a plume of contaminated groundwater, which may end up reaching our drinking water supplies untreated.

To find out more, let's start by learning more about the basic components of a Septic System and what each component is designed to do. Follow the links at the end of each page to continue. Lets start with a simple question, What Happens After The Flush?