Southampton Town Eyes Tighter Septic Restrictions

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The Southampton Town Board on Tuesday held a hearing to consider amending the town code to require alternative, nitrogen-reducing wastewater treatment systems in some new construction and renovation projects.

The amendment, similar to action taken in East Hampton, would require that new treatment systems, approved by the Suffolk County Department of Health Services, be required for such projects in areas where it takes the groundwater two years or less to reach surface waters.

The new systems, which are required to reduce the amount of nitrogen released to 19 milligrams per liter or less, will now be mandated on new construction, renovation projects that increase the floor area of a home by 25 percent or more and substantial septic system upgrades, in which the new system costs at least 50 percent more than the current system. The amendment will also require alternative wastewater systems when the town Conservation Board requires one as part of a permit application.

Supervisor Jay Schneiderman said the new requirement is part of a growing effort to “really change the way we handle development,” and Councilman John Bouvier, who worked on the legislation with Councilwoman Christine Scalera, noted that when the town rolls out a rebate program next month, it will complement a similar program already introduced by the county. “Our goal from the outset was not to burden our residents unduly,” he said.

Bob DeLuca, the president of the Group for the East End, praised the code change, saying that by addressing wastewater treatment the towns — and Suffolk County — are beginning to make real progress toward correcting the degradation of both the groundwater and bays and harbors. He noted that the county is hoping to tap into a $75 million state fund for wastewater remediation. “It really can’t work unless there is a local imitative,” he said.

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