The complicated process of connecting to Suffolk’s public sewer system may soon get an overhaul following the Legislature’s approval of legislation seeking to streamline that procedure. The bill, sponsored by Deputy Presiding Officer Kara Hahn and co-sponsored by Legislators Berland and Fleming, gives the County 180 days to evaluate and propose ways to simplify its existing duplicative application and review process. Currently, applicants seeking permission to hook into a County sewer district requires two separate application and review processes, one through the Department of Health Services and another through the Department of Public Works, which has been attributed to increased costs for communities and homeowners and permitting delays.
“Our County’s sewer connection process seems to be as antiquated and inefficient as the wastewater systems these applicants are seeking to replace when requesting to connect,” said Deputy Presiding Officer Hahn. “As we work to reverse generations of damage caused by nitrogen pollution, we must also reverse the bureaucratic impediments that slow our progress.”
The plan to streamline the County’s application procedure has been applauded by those who most frequently work within it. In a statement of support issued to legislators prior to the vote, the Long Island Builder’s Institute reported:
“One of the most frustrating areas of the permit process in Suffolk County is the dual responsibility of having to obtain permits and approvals from both the Suffolk County Department of Health Services and the Suffolk County Department of Public Works with regard to sewer and sewage treatment plant construction and connections. While the two entities are located across the street from each other in Yaphank, in many cases they could be considered to be on separate planets somewhere in our solar system. While one is going through the approval process with one of the entities, the other agency is waiting for forms, comments, covenants and restrictions and many other impediments to the construction and connection of the most important aspect of the development process in the county. While some improvements have been made over the years, and I mean years, it is incumbent upon this Legislature to ensure that these dual modes of jurisdiction and approval assist the county in providing the most efficient form of sewage disposal rather than hinder or delay the process.”
“Suffolk County has long been a leader in protecting our drinking water,” said Legislator Susan A. Berland. “Streamlining the process to apply for a sewer connection will reduce the time between application and installation, furthering our efforts to mitigate harmful nitrogen and other pollution. I thank Deputy Presiding Officer Hahn for her leadership on this and many other initiatives that have made Suffolk County a regional and national leader in safeguarding the environment.”
“Improving water quality is a critical priority for our time, and we know that sewer treatment is an important step in reducing contamination. This effort to make the application process more efficient will not only encourage use of updated wastewater treatment processes by removing barriers to achieving our environmental goals, but also will protect taxpayers by reducing administrative costs. I applaud Legislator Hahn for her leadership on this important issue,” stated Legislator Bridget Fleming of the 2nd Legislative District.
The bills now go to County Executive Steve Bellone for his signature. Any potential change to the application process following the review will be made through the adoption of subsequent legislation.