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Source: Greater Patchogue

Bellone Announces Town Hall-Style Serioes to Tout Septic Improvement Program

Posted: April 11, 2017
Originally Published: April 11, 2017

Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone will be taking his Septic Improvement Program proposal on the road this spring with a series of town hall-style events.

Bellone announced legislation last month that, if passed, would provide a combination of grants and low-interest loans to help county residents replace their current septic systems with “denitrification systems.” Those newer systems heavily reduce the amount of nitrogen pollution that’s put into the ground — and ultimately reaches waterways.

Nitrogen in our bays, Sound and creeks come mostly from human waste and fertilizers, studies have found, and feeds the algal blooms —such as red tides and brown tides — that result in closed beaches and decimated shellfish populations, among other problems.

The first town hall is scheduled for April 24 at the David W. Crohan Community Center in Flanders, near Riverhead. The time of that event, as well as details on “at least” three more will be announced later. (Check back at all greaterlongisland.com websites.)

At a press conference Monday in Blue Point, Bellone also urged residents to attend the Legislature’s first public hearing on the proposed law during the April 25 legislative meeting in Hauppauge.

“As big an environmental problem as this is, our goal has been to solve the water quality crisis,” said Bellone.

Under the proposal, funding sources — including individual grants of $10,000 or $11,000 — would fully the cover the cost of these new systems, which could reach $17,500, according to Bellone’s office.

He called the program “as bold as it is achievable,” and touted its affordability, as the $2 million annually for the grants would come from the county’s already existing quarter-penny sales tax fund.

Money from that voter-approved tax must only be used for open space preservation and drinking water protection efforts, as well as sewer rate stabilization — through which money can be used for what’s referred to as decentralized sewer systems.

“This is a fiscally responsible approach that will not burden taxpayers,” Bellone said. “In the end, folks would see their home values increase over the long term.”

“From Babylon to Blue Point, and all the way to Bridgehampton and everywhere in between, there are more than 360,000 nonperforming cesspools and septic systems in Suffolk County,” he continued. “Every day that we delay we risk exacerbating the water quality crisis.”

Bellone said the cost of installing a new, traditional septic system — one that would not work to reduce nitrogen levels — could cost between $6,000 to $8,000.

“This program actually puts homeowners in a better position” financially, he said.

An estimated 400 Suffolk County homeowners — the program is for residential homes only — would be selected to receive funding under the first two years of the program, county officials said. The priority would be on coastal and low-lying properties, where septic systems can effect waterways much quicker than in other areas.

The fixed 3% loans would be paid back over 15 years. The loan program would be administered by the nonprofit Community Development Corporation of Long Island FundingCorp, with financial support from Bridgehampton National Bank.

Bellone described the series of town hall events as a “community outreach campaign,” to help residents learn about this program and the incentives.

” … and to bring our message directly to the people, and tell them exactly what’s at stake here in solving this community crisis,” he said.

The county has for several years run pilot programs to identify which denitrification system technologies perform the best, and has approved three systems so far, including the Norweco Singulair TNT, as reporting by GreaterBayShore in December.

“It’s very smart of the county and the county executive to launch a public education program,” said Adrienne Esposito, the executive director of Citizens Campaign for the Environment, a nonprofit advocacy group, which supports the legislation.

“The county is leading the way for the rest of New York State,” she said, adding that the state budget for the first time is allocating funding for replacing septic systems.

“Over the weekend, New York State signed the budget that would also allow for another $75 million over the next five years to be allocated for septic replacements; and that’s a great thing,” she said, indicating those funds would go to counties like Suffolk that have undertaken nitrogen reduction efforts and are putting programs in place.

Residents are encouraged to email septicdemo@suffolkcountyny.gov or call the county’s Department of Health Services at 631-852-5814 for additional details or assistance.