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Aug 19, 2015 10:23 AMPublication: The Southampton Press

Detailed Proposal Unveiled For Southampton Village Sewer District

The proposed service area in the Southampton Village sewer district.
Aug 19, 2015 11:24 AM

By 2020, Southampton Village is expected to have its own sewer district to help revitalize Lake Agawam and improve conditions for businesses.

Although it is still a work in progress, nearly a decade of discussions have finally led to a formal, detailed proposal for a district that would encompass the entire village but, in practice, would serve only 204 properties in the center of the village, spanning north to south from the intersection of Windmill Lane and North Sea Road to Agawam Park, and west to east roughly from Hill Street to Hampton Road, ending just before Southampton Elementary School. The district would exclude Southampton Hospital, which has its own sewage treatment plant.

The service area would cost roughly $33 million to construct, but there would be several opportunities for the village to apply for environmental grants and awards from the state to make it more affordable.

Currently, village properties almost universally use onsite septic systems, many of them outdated and in need of upgrades.

“A few years ago, we all realized we had a significant problem with draining in the village center,” said Paul Travis, chairman of the Village Planning Commission, during a public meeting on the proposal August 12. “This is something we very much want to go forward with. I think anyone looking at Lake Agawam this summer knows.”

During a presentation of the proposal at that meeting by the Melville-based firm H2M Architects and Engineers, Senior Project Engineer Nicholas F. Bono said that the sewer district would be served by a “hybrid” collection system, consisting of gravity sewers and low-pressure pumps. Gravity sewers, as the name suggests, use gravity to transport wastewater from its source toward a treatment facility, while low-pressure sewers require grinder pump stations at each property in the collection area that are connected to a pressurized sewer main and transport the wastewater to either a treatment facility, another gravity sewer, or an intermediate centralized pump station.

Using a low-pressure sewer combined with a gravity sewer, Mr. Bono explained, will reduce the number of pump stations, minimize draining, and create less of a traffic problem during construction. The proposed hybrid system would require 44 watertight pump stations located throughout the service area.

All of the wastewater would be transported to what Mr. Bono described as an “advanced” treatment plant, enclosed mostly underground in a building behind the Southampton Village Police Department on Windmill Lane. The building’s design would match that of the police headquarters and include odor control and noise attenuation.

Mr. Bono said it is estimated that the treatment facility would process approximately 200,000 gallons of wastewater per day, which would then be filtered into a leaching area spanning the rear of nearly all the properties on Windmill Lane. There, the filtered water would slowly seep into the ground, where it would go through more natural purification processes before making its way to Lake Agawam.

When the system is up and running, there will be a cost, which Mr. Bono referred to as a “sewer rent,” that owners of connected properties would have to pay annually toward operation and maintenance. The fee would be determined by daily use and how the village chooses to manage the system—it can either create its own sewage department, with a superintendent and staff, or it can contract maintenance services out, which Mr. Bono said would be more cost-effective.

Additionally, there will be a sewer tax imposed on the entire village to help pay for the initial cost of creating the sewer system, because the system will benefit all who reside in the municipality, Mr. Bono said. The tax would vary depending on the kind of property, but hotels are anticipated to see the highest rate. For instance, a hotel in the service area with a market value of $3.1 million would pay an annual sewer tax of $27,539.

The sewer tax for retailers and restaurants in the service area would be significantly lower: A typical retailer or restaurant likely would pay about $5,400 a year in sewer tax. Homeowners, for the most part, are expected to pay far less, because there are no homes in the proposed service area. A homeowner whose house has a market value of $526,000 would pay $66 annually, according to the presentation.

The next steps in moving forward with the sewer proposal, Mr. Bono said, are to finalize the service area map and finalize requirements under the State Environmental Quality Review Act. He said both Suffolk County and Southampton Village determined that the project would have no adverse environmental impacts, but rather a positive impact by improving the overall condition of Lake Agawam. The lake, village officials have said, is often polluted with algal blooms due to high concentrations of nutrients such as nitrogen and phosphorous, stemming mainly from nitrogen leaching into the ground and the lake from the septic systems on Main Street and Windmill and Jobs lanes.

Following that, the village will then have to submit an application to the state to actually form the sewer district before it can begin to apply for grants to fund the construction and installation.

In addition to its environmental benefits, the sewer district is expected to bring a boost to businesses in the village. According to H2M Senior Vice President Frank M. Russo, the system will enable restaurants in particular to accommodate more diners, and there will be opportunities to turn more dry spaces in the village into “wet” uses that involve water-intensive activities like food preparation.

The sewer system would also support the Southampton Village Center Vision, a plan created by Ehrenkrantz Eckstut & Kuhn Architects in 2008 that projected the growth of the village business district, specifically on Nugent Street and Windmill Lane. Mr. Travis said that plan served as a precursor to the sewage plan.

“You don’t want to create a sewer district and then find that it’s not going to accommodate the growth,” he said. “Our point was: You should first decide what you’re going to build.”

Mr. Travis stressed to those in attendance at the August 12 meeting, though, that everything presented on the sewer district was not set in stone yet, and that it was all subject to change based on further evaluation from village officials.

“This is, at this point, a proposal. This is really just a plan so people can get out and comment,” he said. “But we can actually move this thing into a real project for the village.”

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