Innovative septic systems for new construction to be required in Suffolk

New construction in non-drained areas of Suffolk County will require innovative nitrogen-reducing sewer systems to replace traditional sewer systems from July 2021.

Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone signed a bill on Thursday, which was passed unanimously by the county legislature on October 6th, amending the county Sanitary Code to implement the new sanitation requirements.

“Protecting water quality is a top priority for both the environment and the economy of our region,” Bellone said in a press release after the bill was signed on the shores of Lake Ronkonkoma. The new requirements will help “ensure that future generations can enjoy cleaner water in the bays, harbors and beaches that make Suffolk County special,” he said.

“This legislation is a historic step towards a more sustainable and healthier environment,” said Bellone.

North Fork lawmaker Al Krupski, who served on the workgroup to develop the county’s septic tank improvement program, met with Bellone, fellow lawmakers and environmental officials at Ronkonkoma County Park on Thursday to witness the bill being signed .

“It is not sustainable to dump our human waste into our drinking water along with all other cleaning agents, health and beauty care products and pharmaceuticals,” said Krupski. He praised the leadership of the County Executive and Deputy County Executive Peter Scully and the work of the County Health Department, and the planning and public works departments.

“The process was inclusive from the start, with cities, villages, environmental associations and builders represented,” said Krupski.

All new construction and commercial buildings, as well as single-family home renovations, require advanced systems that increase the number of bedrooms to more than five and increase the floor area or footprint of the building.

The bill also offers greater flexibility for the use of smaller wastewater treatment plants. This change is designed to help companies that rely on cesspools migrate to systems that instead reduce nitrogen. According to Bellone’s press release, this enables an expansion of use while at the same time improving the protection of water quality.

The new law is the latest in a series of measures the county has taken in recent years to move away from the use of cesspools and sewage treatment plants, which have been identified as the main source of nitrogen pollution.

In 2016, Suffolk passed Article 19 of the Suffolk County Sanitary Code, which provides a rigorous individual testing and approval process for nitrogen-reducing septic tanks.

In 2017, Suffolk County unveiled the first of its kind in New York State, providing grants and low-interest financing to make the replacement of cesspools and septic tanks with new technology affordable for homeowners who choose to upgrade their systems. To date, more than 1,900 homeowners have applied for the program, resulting in 1,082 grants being awarded. Almost 600 systems were installed under the grant program. The program’s success was recognized nationwide as New York State allocated $ 10 million to Suffolk, or nearly 70% of the total $ 15 million in government funding, to replace septic tanks distributed nationwide in 2018. Second government funding is expected in early 2021.

Nearly three years ago, County Executive Bellone signed a landmark cesspool ban at the same location. That legislation banned the installation of new cesspools in Suffolk County, closed a loophole in the Hygiene Code since 1973, and required “grandfather” commercial properties to install advanced nitrogen-reducing systems.

The legislation, which went into effect this week, is the first policy change pushed forward based on the recommendations of the district’s 2019 wastewater plan for underwater catchment areas. It found that the most cost-effective way to reduce nitrogen pollution on site is using innovative custom on-site wastewater treatment systems from wastewater sources in Suffolk County.

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