Yesterday, Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone signed into law the first-of-its-kind water quality program in New York State that will help homeowners replace their outdated septic systems or cesspools at an affordable rate with advanced wastewater technologies, which are designed to significantly reduce nitrogen pollution. By installing advanced wastewater treatment systems, homeowners would in turn play a significant role in the County’s plan to reduce nitrogen pollution and protect Long Island waters. The County Executive was joined for the bill signing by Suffolk County Legislators and environmental organizations that support the County’s effort in combatting the water quality crisis.
“With the stroke of a pen, we have moved one step closer in reversing decades of nitrogen pollution by providing homeowners the tools they need to help reclaim our waters,” said Suffolk County Executive Bellone. “This innovative grant and loan program, the first of its kind in New York State, is exactly the innovative approach that is needed to help homeowners afford to replace their outdated septic systems and cesspools without breaking the bank.”
Under the Reclaim Our Water Septic Improvement Program, homeowners who decide to replace their cesspool or septic system with the new technologies will be eligible for a grant of up to $11,000 — inclusive of installing a pressurized shallow drain field — to offset the cost of one of the new systems.
In addition to the grant, homeowners can qualify to finance the remaining cost of the systems over 15 years at a low 3% fixed interest rate. The loan program will be administered by Community Development Corporation of Long Island Funding Corp, with financial support from Bridgehampton National Bank, in the amount $1 million and financial commitments from several philanthropic foundations.
Presiding Officer of the Suffolk County Legislature, DuWayne Gregory, said: “That the Legislature offered its unanimous support for County Executive Bellone’s Reclaim Our Water Septic Improvement Program shows how dedicated Suffolk is to protecting our most precious resource: our water. Replacing outdated cesspools with systems that use new technology is an innovative approach to reducing nitrogen pollution, and I thank the County Executive for his commitment to making this affordable for our residents.”
Majority Leader of the Suffolk County Legislature, Kara Hahn, said “As Long Islanders, our sense of being & our sense of place is intricately tied to our water. For too long, Suffolk County had chosen to accept beach closures, brown tides, fish die-offs and diminished water quality while it debated how best to implement meaningful polices to limit nitrogen pollution. With the stroke of a pen, Suffolk County today has created the framework to phase out the source of much of the nitrogen; inefficient, older, wastewater systems.”
Minority Leader of the Suffolk County Legislature, Kevin McCaffrey, stated, “Protecting our drinking water is a bipartisan issue that I am happy to support. With a district that surrounds the Great South Bay, I speak from experience and with the support of my constituents when I say anything we can do to reduce nitrogen pollution in our aquifers and waterways is a service to all residents of Suffolk County.”
State Senator Thomas Croci (R-C-I – Sayville) said: “As stewards of the environment, we have an obligation to protect our groundwater and our Waterways. This is a good option for Suffolk County residents and I commend County Executive Bellone and Legislature for moving this program forward.”
Suffolk County Legislator Bridget Fleming said: “This is a bold step forward to jumpstart the desperately needed replacement of outdated septic systems and reverse the impairment of our waters. I thank the County Executive for his leadership on this issue. Our natural resources are so critically important because they are the very engine that drives our economy, and I join in the commitment to preserve and protect them.”
Suffolk County Legislator Al Krupski said: “The Reclaim Our Water Septic Improvement Program was a long time in the making and there are many people and departments to thank starting with County Executive Steve Bellone, the staff of Suffolk County Economic Development and Planning, the Department of Health Services and the Department of Public Works as well as the many stakeholders who dedicated time and effort to make this program a reality. Most of the homes and businesses in my district are serviced by antiquated septic systems which do little if anything to prevent pollutants from migrating into our ground and surface waters. The phased in use of these new advanced systems will go a long to protect our natural resources.”
Suffolk County Legislator Steve Stern said: “I am proud to support this critical initiative which is an important step toward reducing nitrogen pollution and ensuring that our precious drinking water is protected for today and for generations to come.”
Suffolk County Legislator William Spencer said: “Water quality has always been a top priority of mine. I fully support this incentive program to provide a path for homeowners to upgrade their on-site wastewater systems. The alarming nitrogen levels in our waterways, caused in large part by outdated septic tanks and cesspools, has been a threat to our health, quality of life, and economy. This program addresses the source of this crisis and is what we need to improve and protect our most important resource. It is my hope that the upgrades are made as soon as possible to have the significant positive impact we are striving for.”
Suffolk County Legislator Sarah Anker said: “It is important that we do everything in our power to limit toxins, especially high concentrations of nitrogen, to protect our health. On Long Island, especially in Suffolk County, water is an economic driver that attracts tourism and serves as a source of income for many. The new Septic Improvement Program will not only make water treatment more affordable for residents, but will help protect our water for future generations by encouraging residents to replace their old cesspools with new nitrogen-reducing septic systems.”
Suffolk County Legislator Rob Trotta said: “This is a good first step to keeping our local water clean.”
Dr. James Tomarken, Commissioner of the Suffolk County Health Services, said: “The Septic Improvement Program is a big step forward in beginning to engage the public in reducing the amount of nitrogen in our waters. The public’s participation is crucial in establishing a strong working relationship between government and its constituents to protect the future of Suffolk County.”
County Executive Bellone also recently announced the launch a new dedicated website – ReclaimOurWater.info – that will provide residents extensive information about the County’s Reclaim Our Water Septic Improvement Program. The website provides homeowners with financial, regulatory, technical and infrastructure aspects of the Septic Improvement Program. This also includes a list of wastewater industry leaders with information pertaining to septic industry training that are in accordance to Suffolk County law and the Suffolk County’s recently updated Sanitary Code.
The program is scheduled to launch beginning in July 2017 through an application process. For the first year of the program, total accessible funds available amount to $2 million through the County’s Assessment Stabilization Reserve Fund. Subsequently, each year through 2021 will be funded with $2 million from the Suffolk County ASRF. Funding for the grant-based program was made possible by Suffolk County residents that voted to approve a 2014 referendum, which authorized use of funding for nitrogen reducing septic systems.
The Septic Improvement Program falls under the auspice of County Executive Bellone’s Reclaim Our Water initiative. Reclaim Our Water, which was launched in 2014, includes $383 million in federal and state aid for the largest expansion of sewer infrastructure in Suffolk County since the 1970s, and the release of the 2015 Suffolk County Comprehensive Water Resources Management Plan, which provides critical recommendations to manage and protect the region’s water resources.
More than 360,000 homes in Suffolk County rely on outdated cesspools and septic systems that do not treat properly wastewater to remove nitrogen, more than the entire state of New Jersey. Studies show that declining water quality that has closed beaches, caused brown tides and fish kills is cause by excess nitrogen, and that cesspools and septics are the largest source of nitrogen pollution.
Residents are encouraged to visit ReclaimOurWater.info for more information about the County’s Septic Improvement program or contact firstname.lastname@example.org with questions pertaining to the program and their current septic or cesspool situation.