Last week, East Hampton became the first town in Suffolk County to mandate that all new buildings—and major building expansions—install low-nitrogen septic systems. The Town will be offering up to $16,000 in rebates to commercial or residential property owners wishing to upgrade.
The new-style septic systems emit half the nitrogen of standard systems. Nitrogen pollution from sewage is one of the chief pollutants that threaten Long Island’s water quality, impacting the economy and causing fish and turtle die-offs, beach closures, bacterial contamination and toxic algal blooms. Symptoms caused by nitrogen in sewage and polluted runoff appear in virtually every bay and harbor around Long Island.
Nitrogen causes plants to grow, but when too much of it flows into our bays, fast-growing plants out-compete slower-growing, beneficial plants. The decaying plants use up oxygen disproportionately, killing fish and other marine life.
At PWGC we actively design and provide installation oversight for these systems, and can attest to their beneficial impact. Our wastewater treatment project at Meschutt Beach County Park was the first commercial application of an advanced wastewater treatment system on Long Island, and it makes an excellent case study, as the system successfully reduced the amount nitrogen entering Peconic Bay by 65%. We were honored to receive the Diamond Award from ACEC-NY for this project.
The East Hampton mandate will “set in place the new norm for development and redevelopment” and “will have a tremendous impact,” said Sara Davison, executive director of the Friends of Georgica Pond Foundation, which seeks to protect the pond’s ecosystem.
“Protecting water quality is our highest priority because our quality of life and economy depend on safe drinking water and pristine surface water,” Town Supervisor Larry Cantwell said in a statement.