Septic systems are a dirty, complicated business. Their functionality not only effects a residential or commercial property, but it can also play a role in the health of the water. Failing septic systems have made headlines across Long Island as nitrogen pollution from sewage has led to fish die-offs, beach and shellfish bed closures, algae blooms, and red, brown, and rust tides. This decline in water quality threatens not just drinking water and the environment, but has an impact on tourism and the economy. With all of this interwoven, John Parry of South Fork Septic has become passionate about implementing local septic rebate programs to install advanced wastewater treatment systems to mitigate concerns of nitrogen pollution from the source.
Prior to the introduction of the rebate program, which helps homeowners pay for new septic treatment systems in East Hampton, Southampton, and other Long Island towns, more than 90% of homes in eastern Suffolk County had septic tanks or cesspools. Not hooked up to sewers, these individual systems were designed to remove pathogens, not nitrogen. Old, failing systems need to be replaced, which is often when Parry gets a call.
“A conventional system consists of a septic tank, which catches solid waste, and then a cesspool off of it that has a pipe that acts like a filter, blocking solid waste,” Parry explains. “But that’s kind of impossible to do if it’s something that can’t be maintained by a person every day. You still get solid waste into a cesspool without a filter or machine to stop it. In this case, the solid waste leaves the septic tank, enters the cesspool and then ground beneath it, which is all sand, and creates a block and stops draining.”
When these cesspools begin to collapse or stop draining, Parry urges customers to consider the new alternative option rather than replacing their current system with a conventional system. His company helps individuals looking to make the change through the grant process, getting the right paperwork filed. Since early summer 2018, South Fork Septic has installed 30 new advanced wastewater treatment systems. Now, these installations average three to four per week.
Advanced septic systems are a series of county-approved, submersible, oxygenating pumps. They bring in atmospheric air, pushing the bacteria from human waste through, creating a colony. The oxygen process keeps eating the organisms and breaks them down in a much more rapid process. From there, the water runs through breakdown chambers and comes out crystal clear.
For Parry, it’s not just business. “I am native to Southampton,” he says, sharing the vast importance of preserving the environment. “I’m part of the fire department and every year we have our muster at Lake Agawam. Over the past few years we were not even allowed to go near the pond because of algae blooms, which environmentalists think are caused by old septic systems leaking into the pond.”
With any new product to a marketplace, especially one that changes the way things have been done for decades, it is often met with skepticism. Parry himself was wary, though after installing four he realized this was the way to go. He also learned that these systems are quite common across the United States and even other countries.
“A homeowner will know if there’s a problem,” Parry says. “A buzzer and red light will go off, and a homeowner can call the provider to come address the issue. With old conventional systems you wouldn’t know you have a problem until it backs up into your basement, filling it with sewage.”
Parry comforts customers with the facts, and the mandatory three-year operation and maintenance agreement. Every six months the septic provider takes a sample and sends it to a lab to be sure the system is running at peak performance. Manufacturers including FUJI Clean, Hydro-Action, Norweco, and Orenco are popular choices for both new construction and existing residences. A great portion of the price, if not all, can be covered by the rebate program.
Their environmental benefit and a shared love of the East End is one Parry hopes will be a draw for customers. “I love it out here,” he says. “I’m always out on the water and fishing all the time. I really want to preserve everything. I don’t want it to be like the East River.”
For more information, visit southforkseptic.com.