Government: Southampton Okays Septic Rebates, League Hosts Debate

Southampton Town Hall

By Stephen J. Kotz

Last November, nearly 80 percent of Southampton Town voters signaled their support of a referendum that would allow up to 20 percent of the money collected from the Community Preservation Fund to be used for water quality projects.

On Tuesday, the Southampton Town Board followed in the footsteps of East Hampton Town when it amended the town code to adopt a program, funded through the CPF, that will provide rebates of up to $15,000 for residents who replace traditional septic systems with new wastewater systems that greatly increase the amount of nitrogen removed from wastewater.

To qualify for rebates, residents must live in what are classified as medium or high priority areas, assistant town attorney Kathleen Murray told the board at a public hearing on August 8.

Residents earning $300,000 or less a year will qualify for a rebate covering up to 100 percent, or a maximum of $15,000, toward the cost of one of the new systems approved by Suffolk County. Those making between $300,000 and $500,000 would be eligible to receive 50 percent of the rebate, and those making more than $500,000 would not qualify for any rebate.

Kevin McDonald of the Nature Conservancy and Tommy John Schiavoni of North Haven, who is a Democratic candidate for town board, both spoke in favor of the measure.

“This is the culmination of a number of years of effort,” said Mr. McDonald, who nonetheless urged the board to continue to refine its efforts. He said it could consider requiring the use of shallow drain fields, which require more space, but remove higher amounts of nitrogen and other contaminants from wastewater, and pointed out that Suffolk County is allowing an additional rebate of $1,000 for those who install drain fields.

Supervisor Jay Schneiderman suggested the town might want to revisit its law in the future to provide higher incentives for drain fields.

Earlier this summer, the board passed legislation requiring the use of new wastewater systems for all new residential construction, major expansions, or septic upgrades required by the county, in high priority areas, where it takes up to 2 years for septic effluent to reach the groundwater or surface waters. New systems were also required on property outside of those areas if mandated by the town Conservation Board.

“We are looking at it as a pilot program. We want to get the kinks out and learn what we need to learn while remaining flexible,” said Councilman John Bouvier, who worked on the town’s legislation with Councilwoman Christine Scalera.

Mr. Bouvier cautioned that the program will likely take time to reap benefits. “We’re probably talking a few hundred homes at first,” he said, adding that the county will test each system twice a year and share that data with the town. If the system works as well as advertised, he said other homeowners may be willing to invest in them.

Water Quality Advisory Committee Named

The Southampton Town Board on Tuesday appointed a five-member water quality advisory committee who will be charged with reviewing water quality projects seeking support from the Community Preservation Fund.

The committee members are Christopher Clapp of Westhampton, who works for the Nature Conservancy and also serves on East Hampton Town’s advisory committee; Jon Semlear of Noyac, a bayman and former town Trustee; Howard Reisman of Southampton, a retired Long Island University biology professor; Joshua Halsey of Southampton, of the Peconic Land Trust; and Maureen Dunn of Brookhaven, an oceanographer at Brookhaven National Laboratory.

Councilman John Bouvier said the board amended its law establishing the committee to allow an out-of-town member to serve so it would be able to take advantage of the scientific knowledge of someone of Ms. Dunn’s caliber.

The committee will review applications for larger projects, such as neighborhood denitrification systems, that are submitted to the town for funding from the CPF.

League To Host Candidate Debate

The League of Women Voters of the Hamptons and the East Hampton Group for Good Government will sponsor a debate among the candidates for East Hampton Town Board at the East Hampton Library on Monday, August 28, at 7 p.m.

Incumbent Councilwoman Kathee Burke-Gonzalez, attorney Jeffrey Bragman and Zachary Cohen, a former candidate for supervisor, are battling it out for two places on the ballot in a September 12 primary.

The debate will take place in the library’s Baldwin Family Community Room and will be moderated by Estelle Gellman, co-president of the league, and Arthur Malman, chairman of the GGG. East Hampton Town’s LTV will tape the debate for viewing on Channel 20.