Long Island’s Suffolk County Legislature has taken a new measure towards combating the increasing problem of nitrogen pollution seen all throughout the region. This issue, which has been a growing concern is largely due to nitrogen seeping into water through cesspool and septic systems from local homes.
One of the many negative environmental impacts of nitrogen pollution is fish die-offs. Not only are these aesthetically disturbing, they force beaches to shut down, pose a threat to public health, attract wildlife that consume fish, and redirect work for cleanup crews.
A unanimous vote on Tuesday, July 26th will allow county developers to use high-tech septic systems that could replace the 360,000+ cesspools and septic tanks throughout Suffolk County. The purpose of this is not to have developers increase the amount they are building, but rather to make the necessary improvements to remedy the amount of nitrogen pollution.
A major impediment to installing the new systems is cost. Ranging from $15,000 to 25,000 each this is no cheap or easy fix for many homeowners. To test the effectiveness of new sewer systems, the county has elected to do a lottery, placing the high-tech septic systems into 20 homes throughout the region. These homes will serve as a case study to determine whether there will be a noticeable impact in the reduction of nitrogen pollution.
To help the offset in the cost towards building new systems, County Executive Steve Bellone proposed a November referendum in state legislature to permit a $1 per 1,000 gallon surcharge on water rates, which was deemed “dead on arrival” by Republican State Senate Majority Leader John Flanagan. The goal of Bellone’s proposal was to help offset the cost of installing a new sewer system to provide grants and funding driving the price down to the more affordable $5,000 for cesspool replacement.
Walter Dawydiak, the Health Department’s Director of the Division of Environmental Quality states that they aim to have enough results to begin certifying systems as early as September this year. The first of the projects that will be installed in residential properties, of 3-homes or more, with an average of 1,000 gallons of sewage flow per day. The goal is to have the approval for commercial uses to come in early 2017.