Suffolk to Require Nitrogen-Reducing Septic Systems for New Construction

Pictured above: Citizen Campaign for the Environment Executive Director Adrienne Esposito, Steve Bellone, Executive Director of Suffolk County, and Al Krupski, Suffolk County’s North Fork legislature, signing the bill on Thursday at Lake Ronkonkoma.

Suffolk County will now require the use of nitrogen-reducing sewer systems in all new construction in unused areas of the county after Suffolk County legislation was passed unanimously last week and signed Thursday by Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone.

The law will also allow greater flexibility for the use of small wastewater treatment plants in downtown business districts.

The changes are part of Suffolk’s overall plan to solve long-standing problems caused by the lack of sewage infrastructure in most parts of the county, which have led to groundwater and surface water nitrification and an increase in harmful algal blooms.

Nitrogen-reducing sewage systems will be required in all new residential and commercial buildings, as well as single-family home renovations that increase the number of bedrooms to more than five and increase the floor area or area of ​​the building. The new requirements will come into force in July 2021.

The use of small downtown wastewater treatment plants is a change designed to help companies that rely on cesspools switch to systems that instead reduce nitrogen, allow it to expand, while better protecting water quality.

Steve Bellone’s Suffolk County office held a signing ceremony in Lake Ronkonkoma County Park on Thursday.

“Protecting water quality is a top priority for both the environment and our economy,” said Bellone. “The actions we are taking today will enable greater investments in our downtown business districts and help future generations enjoy cleaner water in the bays, harbors and beaches that make Suffolk County a special place.”

“The critical step the county is taking today reflects a broad scientific consensus that excess nitrogen from the grossly outdated practice of burying untreated human waste in the ground above our only source of drinking water has adversely affected our bays, rivers and ports and threatens our drinking water supplies, ”said Bridget Fleming, Lawmaker for South Fork Suffolk County.

The new law is the latest in a series of measures the county has taken in recent years to abandon the use of cesspools and sewage treatment plants. In 2016, Suffolk County established Article 19 of the Suffolk County Sanitary Code, which provided a rigorous testing system for new custom nitrogen-reducing sewer systems (I / A OWTS).

In 2017, Suffolk County launched its Septic Improvement Program, which provides grants and low-interest financing to make the replacement of cesspools and sewage treatment plants with new IA technologies affordable for homeowners. To date, more than 1,900 homeowners have applied for the program, 1,082 grants have been awarded, and nearly 600 IA systems have been installed. New York State has allocated $ 10 million to Suffolk in replacement funds for the septic system, and the county expects to receive second state funding in early 2021.

Three years ago, the county also introduced a new cesspool ban, filling a loophole in the Sanitary Code since 1973 and calling for “grandfather” commercial real estate to install advanced nitrogen-reducing sewer systems.

“I would like to thank the county executive for his leadership in advancing wastewater treatment,” said Al Krupski, North Fork County Legislator. “It is not sustainable to dump our human waste into our drinking water along with all other cleaning products, health and beauty products, and pharmaceuticals. I am very impressed with the leadership of Peter Scully, the hard work and diligence of the Department of Health, Planning and the Department of Public Works of Suffolk County. ”

“These proposed changes to the Health Code represent important steps in restoring water quality in Suffolk County and show that the county is not just investigating the problem, but taking action to protect public health and coastal ecosystems,” said Dr. Christopher Gobler Professor of Coastal Ecology and Director of the New York State Center for Clean Water Technology at Stony Brook University. “Scientists have documented a decline in water quality for decades that contributed to the collapse of vital clam industries such as hard clams and scallops. Now Suffolk County is using the best science available to make the changes necessary to reverse the decades-old decline. We will all benefit from these changes in the decades to come. “

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