New Septic System Rules on Deck in North Haven

A low-nitrogen septic system that was installed in Jamesport. Justin Jobin photo

North Haven Village is next on the list of South Fork municipalities debating the adoption of more stringent laws governing residential wastewater treatment systems.

Village officials initially published a legal advertisement indicating they were considering adopting the same legislation that the Town of Southampton recently put into place. However, during an April 16 North Haven Village public hearing on the new septic systems, Mayor Jeff Sander told his colleagues he’d like the village to consider even tougher rules — specifically mirroring what the village of Westhampton Beach has established.

“It’s imperative that the towns and villages move rapidly to get these new systems installed,” Mr. Sander said during the hearing. “North Haven is an island. We touch the water practically everywhere and we have a million estuaries.”

Village clerk Eileen Tuohy said Wednesday the village has sent the updated proposal to its attorney and would likely be re-publishing a legal notice advertising the newer proposed legislation.

Southampton Town requires the new innovative/alternative septic systems — abbreviated as “I/A” systems — in all new construction and substantial renovation projects in high-priority areas, plus those that are deemed necessary by the town’s Conservation Board or Environment Division.

Westhampton Beach, however, requires the I/A systems in both high- and medium-priority areas; in renovations that increase a home’s floor area by 1,000 square feet or more or by 25 percent or more; when the cost of the renovation exceeds 50 percent of the home’s replacement value minus depreciation; when a house is being raised to comply with FEMA regulations; or when its number of bedrooms increases beyond what the Suffolk County Department of Health Services previously permitted.

During the public hearing, multiple experts testified to the benefits of the I/A systems — most notably their significant impact on reducing the release of nitrogen from organic waste, which harms water ecosystems — but also acknowledged there are some complications.

“The shallow drain fields can become very tricky trying to fit them in,” said David Rhoades of TF Engineering PLLC, who lives in North Haven and has an I/A system at his house. “Somebody buys a big piece of property they want to use every inch you can use, and all of a sudden you have no room to put a big drain field out there.”

Joe Densieski of Wastewater Works Inc. said systems need maintenance programs “designed for the home based on how it is being used.”

“It will go dormant” if it’s not being fed organic waste, he said.

He also said people need to understand they can’t put a large volume of non-organic waste into the I/A systems.

“If it doesn’t come out of the human body, don’t flush it down the toilet,” Mr. Densieski said.

Vinny Gaudiello, North Haven’s village engineer, concluded, “It’s still a better system … but you have to take better care of it.”