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Jun 1, 2011 8:49 AMPublication: The Southampton Press

Town Looks To Take First Step To Regulate Wastewater

Jun 1, 2011 10:41 AM

Southampton Town officials and community members are drafting new legislation to require property owners to maintain and update septic systems and cesspools, viewed as the first step in fighting nitrogen pollution in groundwater and bays on the local government level.

The draft legislation, if enacted, would mandate property owners to have their septic systems inspected at least once every five years, or whenever the ownership of a property is transferred, according to a copy of the proposed law, which was authored primarily by Bob DeLuca, president of the Bridgehampton-based environmental organization the Group for the East End.

The goal behind the measure, Mr. DeLuca said this week, is not only to help the town protect its drinking water supply, along with its freshwater and marine ecosystems, but also to raise each property owner’s awareness of the status of their septic systems. It will also help the town accumulate data to map where the systems lie.

“This is one step of many for cleaning up groundwater, and it’s data collection, it’s better understanding the infrastructure that’s here,” Mr. DeLuca said.

The draft law, which is in very preliminary stages—or as Mr. DeLuca calls it, “a slightly refined idea”—comes out of a subcommittee of the town’s Sustainable Southampton Green Committee.

Specifically, the legislation would require property owners who rely on a “sewage disposal system”— i.e.: septic tank, cesspool, leaching ring or field—to have an inspection performed by a septage collector licensed by the Suffolk County Department of Health Services. The inspector would evaluate the system based on a host of criteria that would eventually determine whether it is in “substantial conformance with the standards of the Suffolk County Sanitary Code,” according to the draft law.

If it is not in compliance, the property owner would be required to bring it up to county standards within 18 months. In the event a property was transferred or sold, there would be a mandatory inspection and pump out of the septic tank on site. Failure to comply with the law would be deemed a violation, according to the draft, punishable by a fine not to exceed $350. For multiple offenses, a fine would not exceed $1,000.

The subcommittee that created the law will be absorbed into a newly formed task force that is expected to hone in on ways to improve water quality regionally, according to Town Supervisor Anna Throne-Holst. Just this Tuesday, she and other community members met to discuss the creation of the group, tentatively dubbed the East End Clean Water Coalition. Its goals and mission aren’t yet completely hammered out, but the idea is to focus on improving water quality and to encourage new sewage treatment technologies that meet higher standards of water quality, according to Glynis Berry, a member of the Peconic chapter of the American Institute of Architects, who will be serving on the group

“One goal is to identify wastewater treatment needs for decentralized systems that meet an environmental criteria which is more stringent than drinking water,” Ms. Berry said.

Eventually, with the work of the regional group, the committee members hope to “light a little fire” under the county to revise its codes and change its standards and approval processes for septic systems, said Ms. Throne-Holst. “I think many of us are frustrated with the lack of walking the walk there,” she said.

Ms. Throne-Holst said she plans to invite other East End town and village representatives to sit on the task force.

Much of the recent drive to reconsider current septic standards comes from a Stony Brook University School of Marine and Atmospheric Sciences study, undertaken by Professor Christopher Gobler, Ph.D., which links residential overdevelopment—and the resulting nitrogen from the septic systems of homes—to pollution in groundwater tables, ponds and fragile estuaries. The experts say septic systems are the greatest contributor of pollutants to the local waters.

Peconic Baykeeper Kevin McAllister, a local environmentalist who has for years consistently sounded the alarm on increasing nitrogen pollution in the region’s waters caused by wastewater from septic systems, said that while the measure to legislate routine inspections is a good first step, the overall goal of reducing nitrogen needs to be stressed.

He said the county approves septic systems that produce effluent with a concentration of somewhere between 40 to 50 milligrams per liter, when some state-of-the-art treatment systems on the market can boast less than 5 milligrams per liter of nitrogen.

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This is a joke, Right?
By The Real World (368), southampton on Jun 2, 11 7:39 PM
Aside from enviornmental concers, having your septic system inspected every 5 years (at least) makes sense, and you'd be nuts to not have it looked at before purchasing a property, but if the inspection must performed by someone from a septic servicing company don't they realize every inspection is sure to "fail"?

Most septic servicing companies are really crooked in my experience.
By RealityFirst (597), Bridgehampton on Jun 3, 11 9:49 PM
1 member liked this comment
Not true. I had my 25 year old system looked at by Norsic and they told me it was in fine shape.
By goldenrod (505), southampton on Jun 4, 11 2:59 PM
Congratulations. But would it "pass" the new standards that would be given the power of law by these new regulations?

How much did Norsic charge for the inspection and were there chemical tests done to determine the nitrogen output? How high is it above the water table or from tidal waters (doesn't seem to matter to this new regulation)?

We've already seen people post here that septic systems and cesspools, seemingly withut exception, are "deadly" and "dangerous and polluting". ...more
By VOS (1241), WHB on Jun 4, 11 3:26 PM
I did say "most", not all.
By RealityFirst (597), Bridgehampton on Jun 4, 11 10:29 PM
Can't wait to see the public hearing on this one. Perhaps the Town can borrow the EH airport after the concert to accomodate everyone who might object to the inherent expense in this program. (Which I don't see mentioned here).
By VOS (1241), WHB on Jun 3, 11 10:23 PM
1 member liked this comment
Maybe if more people knew what a septic tank, or a cesspool is, and just how deadly they can be...

By Mr. Z (11847), North Sea on Jun 3, 11 11:18 PM
1 member liked this comment
Its a great idea thats long over due. After all we S__T where we drink. What the clean water coalition needs to further consider is run off from roofs into roads, ponding of water, as well. Gutters and drywells should be also be phased in at first in homes in or near environmentally sensitive areas like bay front, pond front creek front areas. Homeowners should be required to manage as much of the water run off on their property and not into neighbors or streets. A comprehensive Storm Water management ...more
By North Sea Citizen (568), North Sea on Jun 4, 11 6:54 AM
Does anyone know how these tests are conducted? Is it required to allow the inspector inside of the home? Also, as Reality First posted above, seems like septic co's will have a lot of incentive to have tests fail.
By double standard (1506), Remsenburg on Jun 4, 11 7:19 AM
People who whine at the expense of updating or replacing their dangerous and polluting cesspool clearly should not own a home. This is a no brainer.
By sag631 (5), sag harbor on Jun 4, 11 7:32 AM
How can you make a statement like that? Maybe money grows on trees for you. Most people who own homes have many expenses to up keep them. Many of these homes were built and bought with prevailing codes at the time now they are being told to remedy the standards established by the town not them. Now there is an apparent problem with the septic standards that the town established. Should the town not pick up the cost of replacing the systems and not the homeowners who conformed to its standards? Isn't ...more
By V.Tomanoku (790), southampton on Jun 4, 11 9:35 AM
1 member liked this comment
Sg631 are you a homeowner???
By Crankie (10), Southampton on Jun 4, 11 8:01 AM
Cesspolls and septic systems are the problem in and of themselves. This is a total waste of time as we should be looking for alternative systems to treat our waste.
By Old Quogue (11), Quogue on Jun 4, 11 9:43 AM
Since the function of "up-to-date" cesspools is the same as that of old, out-of-date cesspools, it's hard to see how inspecting them would ameliorate the problem (unless the "inspection" required pumping.)

The Hamptons are simply too populous now for a septic system that worked just fine when the only folks out here were farmers. We have now uniformly poisoned the aquifer and there are thousands of cesspools along the shoreline whose contents rise and fall with the tide.

The ...more
By highhatsize (4217), East Quogue on Jun 4, 11 10:42 AM
Did someone say solar heated swimming pools again...

Obviously if you have a pool you should have a choice if you heat it and how you heat it. That would not have been so had ATH had her way.

Now it seems we are being told fix your septic system or else...

Its difficult to argue against doing something to fix a problem that would be beneficial to the environment and ourselves. However, most homeowners have septic systems that where built according the codes that were ...more
By V.Tomanoku (790), southampton on Jun 4, 11 10:43 AM
By Duckbornandraised (184), Eastport on Jun 4, 11 10:50 AM
Tony Soprano meet the tree-huggers, tree-huggers meet Tony Soprano.

"We took a look at your cespool and figure it will cost $10,000. to bring it into full compliance." x 10,000.

Are they just naive or did the campaign cash touch the right people????
By Duckbornandraised (184), Eastport on Jun 4, 11 10:57 AM
Brilliant analogy, and I've met a few guys in the septic business that stepped right out of the Sopranos.
By RealityFirst (597), Bridgehampton on Jun 4, 11 10:32 PM
Not stereotype, realitylast. How do you live with such paranoia that everyone is out to get you?
By peoplefirst (787), Southampton on Jun 7, 11 8:40 AM
More studies are required to locate the pollution sources before such broad changes are made. If only Southampton does this and the rest of the Suffolk Towns and Villages do not the effort will be meaningless.
By nellie (451), sag harbor on Jun 4, 11 2:08 PM
2 members liked this comment
This is the T.oS.H. " testing the waters" before bonding a sewer system mandate. The Carney's at the town think they can sell a reason to double property taxes. When will "We, the People" wake up and stop voting and stop paying taxes to the morons who are part of a systemically corrupt system of government?
By rrc1049 (63), Bridgehampton on Jun 5, 11 12:42 AM
The Town may now want to rethink the ban on plastic bags. The bags can be used for lining toilets so the town can collect and properly dispose of the waste. This will eliminate cesspolls altogether.
By kpjc (161), east quogue on Jun 5, 11 4:24 PM
1 member liked this comment
Here's an idea! If you're so worried about the drinking water, then why are you allowing so much building. I can't imagine what a 10,000 square foot mansion with 20 bedrooms and 30 bathrooms might do to the aquifer system. Just Saying! Data collection? I always was under the impression that when a home is built, that a building permit needs to be issued. Usually that building permit requires plans to be drafted that are filed with the town or village. I would also be safe to assume that the ...more
By Puros (30), Hampton Bays on Jun 5, 11 5:46 PM
The amount of human sanitary waste generated at Ira Rennerts 60 acre estate with 20 bedrooms and 30 bathrooms or whatever the ridiculous number is amounts to significantly less than the amount of human sanitary waste generated from 60 single family homes on 1 acre each. The manse's out here, while large and with lots of bedrooms/bathrooms, are used seasonly (and the biggest ones are usually used sparingly) and contribute lower amounts of waste to our groundwater than a typical home that is lived ...more
By Nature (2966), Hampton Bays on Jun 5, 11 11:01 PM
Town residents who hav lived theur entire lives here without problems are being financially penalized by all the hollywood greenies who have built houses where they should not have. Where was town government when they allowed all these people to overbuild?
By Walt (292), Southampton on Jun 5, 11 10:50 PM
No one can argue with the need to properly maintain and/or upgrade existing (and presumably future) "effluent" management given the fragile East End environment. However, that's a little like closing the barn door after the horse has escaped. What has been missing out here (aided and abetted by greedy and short-sighted politicians) is focus on the root causes of the problem: i.e., unimpeded over-building, incessant lot miniaturization, accessory apartment additions to Single Family Residences (principally ...more
By Rainfall (22), Hampton Bays on Jun 6, 11 3:18 PM
Another proposed mandate by government. These people have to justify their existance by coming up with more and more regulations. What's next, white cars reflect too much sun and can cause blindness?...let's ban all the white cars in the Town of Southampton. I am sure all the members of town board with homes have solar electric, geothermal heating, sealed homes etc...wait, that costs too much, they can't do it on their salary. Let individual buyers and or homeowners decide for themselves.
By The Real World (368), southampton on Jun 7, 11 7:41 AM
All of you "government bad" complainers have no idea how important government regulations are. You drink clean water, breath clean(ish) air, know the side effects of medicine, eat untainted food, have safe wiring in your home and office, have safe toys for your kids, enjoy driving in a car with good breaks and an engine that won't blow up, and so much more ALL because of government regulations.

If it were up to folks like you everyone would just do whatever the ____ they choose until ...more
By peoplefirst (787), Southampton on Jun 7, 11 8:39 AM
Spare us your intellectually dishonest straw man arguments.

Wanting to limit the growth of government is not the same as dismantaling it.

You take reasonable opinions to the extreme and then argue with the position you create out of thin air.

By RealityFirst (597), Bridgehampton on Jun 7, 11 9:18 AM
1 member liked this comment
Yeah, dude compares regulating waste water to banning all white cars and HE is reasonable. Hah! Keep at 'em, peoplefirst. Realityfirst and realworld must share the same alternate universe! Love it!
By razza5351 (551), East Hampton on Jun 7, 11 12:13 PM
Oh, isn't that cute, you and peoplefirst are in the same gang. Maybe that "powerful progressive voice" Wiener can join you. After all, your arrogance, ethics, tactics, and contemp for Americans are the same as his.
By RealityFirst (597), Bridgehampton on Jun 7, 11 12:30 PM
HAH! Realitylast, you're the best.
By razza5351 (551), East Hampton on Jun 7, 11 1:02 PM
Thanks LaRazza!

Si Se Pueda!
By RealityFirst (597), Bridgehampton on Jun 7, 11 1:17 PM
The simple fact is that groundwater pollution is killing our ponds and bays. Where the water turnover is slight, the effect is most obvious as in Mill Pond in Water Mill. But the ocean bays are dying as well. This year brought the first invasion ever of the toxic red tide into Shinnecock Bay. We can be sure that it will be the first of many.

If we really want to save our open waters, we have to clean them. For bodies like Mill Pond, that means eliminating neighboring cesspools and ...more
By highhatsize (4217), East Quogue on Jun 7, 11 9:44 AM
2 members liked this comment

Once again you start off by offering false information for your sheep. You said this year brought the "first invasion ever of the toxic red tide into Shinnecock Bay".

In an article about the toxic red tide, the following is stated: "This was the fourth year that the organism had been found in the western portion of Shinnecock Bay. " Hmm... is it really that hard to do your research?!

Secondly, you claim that cutting another inlet into Shinnecock "may be the answer". ...more
By Nature (2966), Hampton Bays on Jun 7, 11 1:56 PM
to Nature:

You make a meal out of the fact that I mistook the recent red tide infestation to be the first of its kind, apparently overlooking the fact that its being the first or the fourth is largely irrelevant. The only germane fact is that it is a symptom of the bay's pollution according to the DEC. (Do you suppose you could post a citation to the article which stated it to be the fourth? If you are vague enough, the Press may not censor you.) Thank you, nevertheless, for your correction ...more
By highhatsize (4217), East Quogue on Jun 8, 11 2:01 AM

No worries about it being censored, since it was in this very paper. See: http://www.27east.com/news/article.cfm/East-End/385073/Toxic-Red-Tide-In-Southampton-Spurs-Seafood-Consumption-Warnings. Of course, you won't actually be able to read it due to the locking by the Press.

Your idea of cutting another inlet to solve the algae problem is the classic: "The solution to pollution is dillution". By flushing the bay more, you want to dillute the nitrogen that is present. ...more
By Nature (2966), Hampton Bays on Jun 8, 11 9:33 AM
Why so hostile, nature?
By fcmcmann (417), Hampton Bays on Jun 9, 11 11:26 AM
to Nature:

Quite right. I do not subscribe to the Press so I could not read the citation. I do not patronize news media that shelter preferred groups from criticism.

That's a compelling picture that you paint of the deleterious effects of another inlet. However, as I said previously, it has NOT been studied. You cite no references, nor, I believe, do you yourself have the credentials to provide an informed opinion. I do recall that the dual flushing of the bay during the ...more
By highhatsize (4217), East Quogue on Jun 8, 11 11:12 AM
"I do not patronize news media that shelter preferred groups from criticism." Highhatsize

We all should be following this high moral ground guideline, but when local news is so limited, there is little choice. Sigh.
By goldenrod (505), southampton on Jun 9, 11 11:15 AM
I don't usually reply directly to this kind of thing, but I'm troubled by your comment and HighHatSize's above. I'd invite each of you to drop me a private note at joeshaw@pressnewsgroup.com to give me a little more information about which "preferred groups" you think we're sheltering, and why. I sincerely am at a loss to answer that generally...we work very hard not to do that. I'd love to hear more of your feedback, and I promise not to be argumentative.
By Joseph Shaw, Executive Editor (206), Hampton Bays on Jun 9, 11 4:42 PM
1 member liked this comment
I second that!
Jun 9, 11 11:32 AM appended by dangolfman
By dangolfman (7), jericho on Jun 9, 11 11:32 AM
This comment has been removed because it is a duplicate, off-topic or contains inappropriate content.
By dangolfman (7), jericho on Jun 9, 11 11:32 AM
This comment has been removed because it is a duplicate, off-topic or contains inappropriate content.
By hbbks (1), hampton bays on Jun 9, 11 1:25 PM
Thanks for the non-sequitur hbbks. The boats that are docked in the bay and that utlize the bay and the ocean are not the cause of toxic red tide blooms. Boats don't pump gas into the water. . . I'm not sure why you think that's how boats work, but they work just like cars and expel exhuast which goes into the atmosphere, polluting our air - not our water.

The boats can be (and are) pumped out by the Town's pump out boats, free of charge. It's against the law to dump the contents into ...more
By Nature (2966), Hampton Bays on Jun 9, 11 2:19 PM
Outboards of the two stroke variety can and do leave a slick film on the water, and I've rarely seen a four stroke exhaust that doesn't end up bubbing in the water at some point during acceleration, as well as during higher speed travel.

Any petroleum particulates left after combustion do go into the water at some point. Remember, not everyone has the newest, tightest engine on the dock.
By Mr. Z (11847), North Sea on Jun 9, 11 5:33 PM
I just had my system serviced by South Fork Septic Services. They were great, honest and professional. They taught me a lot of interesting facts and dangers of the septic system at my house. Give them a call 631-283-0333 they are great!!
By johnnyhampton (82), Southampton on Jun 11, 11 5:09 PM