On Friday April 1, 2022, I was invited to tour an East Islip residence, in the 10th Legislative District. During this tour, a demonstration was given on what the Suffolk County Septic Improvement Program (SIP) does to improve our waters. Nitrogen pollution from cesspools and septic systems has been identified as the single largest cause of degraded water quality contributing to beach closures, restrictions on shell fishing, toxic algae blooms, and massive fish kills.
Suffolk County Reclaim Our Water Initiative uses Innovate/Alternative onsite wastewater treatment systems, which have demonstrated through testing by SC and other jurisdictions, to remove greater than 70 percent of nitrogen in our waste water. For example, a typical standard septic system discharges more than 65 milligrams per liter of total nitrogen into the environment, and sometimes as much as 100 or even 200 milligrams per liter.
Improving our water quality is one of my top priorities as Legislator. It is important to know how nitrogen affects our waters and what this program is doing to help with that issue. The minimum performance standard in the County Sanitary Code for approval of new Individual/Alternative Onsite Wastewater Treatment Systems (IA/OTWS) is 19 milligrams per liter. There are more than 360,000 homes countywide that rely on individual cesspools and septic systems, about 100,000 of which are in what the county has identified as high priority regions. Effluent from these aging systems enters the ground, and nitrogen from the systems ultimately reaches Great South Bay.
The most effective new IA systems treat wastewater down to 10.6-11.2 milligrams per liter of total nitrogen, a reduction of 70 percent compared to a traditional septic system or cesspool. Suffolk County has created a grant program to offset the expenses if a property owner is interested in replacing their old septic system with new IA technology. The average cost of replacing a system with new technology under the program is about $25,000 with most of that cost covered by grants. Homeowners interested in participating in the program, should visit https://reclaimourwater.info/septic-improvement-program for all the necessary information on the program including the forms and information for the grant, FAQs, and other relevant links.