Board to move on septic revisions: Four of five recommendations advance

(Credit: Courtesy Photo)

The city council expects to pass four out of five main proposals to expand the requirements for installing nitrogen-reducing I / O treatment systems.

Alderman Albert Dickson, passionate about a broad approach to addressing water quality issues, told colleagues at the council’s working session on Tuesday that he would bow to the majority, but not before rejecting a report on an unidentified story, which stated that he had used “alarmist rhetoric” in previous discussions of the proposed septic revisions.

“I know of no more important topic” than addressing the water quality problems on the island, he said. “I can’t want more for Shelter Island than you want it for yourself,” he said, referring to residents who should want the strictest restrictions to ensure that septic systems either work properly or through updated I / A systems are replaced.

His colleagues on the city council told him they would not refuse his call. However, they insisted that they need more time to deal with the language in a provision that would require certification of an existing septic system that is not working properly; or replaced in the case of an extension or renovation of a residential structure; or building a new accessory structure. An exemption would be granted for external work that has no impact on water use.

“Don’t sacrifice the good for the perfect,” advised assistant supervisor Amber Brach-Williams. She and her colleagues feared that a small project could add significant and unnecessary extra costs and the provision would have to be rewritten to take this into account.

Just because the other three councilors are not adopting the provision in writing doesn’t mean they won’t consider it further, Supervisor Gerry Siller said.

The four regulations, which are expected to be approved at the next regular city council meeting, require the installation of I / O systems:

• All residential construction on previously undeveloped land.

• All residential conversions after demolition except for the foundation, even if the layout of the replacement structure remains the same.

• Any upgrade or replacement of the sewage system required by the Suffolk County Health Department.

• Any emergency exchange in which a septic system has failed.

Gordon Gooding, chairman of the Community Preservation Advisory Committee, who said he was speaking not in that capacity but as an individual, told the board that he felt they should have needed I / A systems when a property is owned changes. The concept is good, but the city needs to consider the real estate industry, said councilor Jim Colligan. Others argued that the committee needed to consider potential unintended consequences that could affect children who inherit property from their parents.

“We can’t wait until you run out of water,” warned Mr. Gooding.

City Engineer Joe Finora reiterated a warning to the city government that as good as I / A systems are for lowering nitrate levels in water, the only real solution to the city’s water quality problems is either a centralized water filtration system or individual filtration systems that use nitrates, chlorides and other contaminants.

“It is bad practice to put all your eggs in one basket,” Finora said of spending just installing I / O systems.

After meeting members of Shelter Islanders for Clean Water last week, Supervisor Gerry Siller said its members are working with the city to help with funding, identification of grants, and other potential funds to meet expenses that the community needs Islanders for water improvement need quality. The group will also help identify guidelines for installing I / A systems; Check installation prices; and help find ways to promote value and cost controls.

A follow-up meeting with members of the Clean Water group is scheduled for Wednesday, September 15 at East Hampton City Hall, and the city council will attend that meeting. Scheduled speakers for the Suffolk County Government are Peter Scully; Deputy District Health Services Officer Christina Capobianco; Director of the Environmental Quality Department Walt Dawydiak; Chief Public Health Engineer John Sohngen; and Senior Environmental Analyst Julia Priolo.

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