Empowering Communities, Advocating Solutions


Source: The Long Island Advance

Septic improvement outreach program launches


Posted: April 13, 2017
Originally Published: April 13, 2017

Just two weeks after announcing the county’s first-ever septic improvement program that would offer residents grants and low-interest financing to replace old cesspools and septic systems with nitrogen-reducing, advanced wastewater systems, County Executive Steve Bellone announced a community outreach campaign to promote it.

Now, the ball is in homeowner’s court to learn about the incentives and support the resolution that still has to pass a public hearing on April 25, with a possible legislative vote on May 16. Once approved, the application process will begin on July 1. At that time, eligible homeowners, making less than $500,000 a year for partial grant monies and less than or equal to $300,000 for full, can apply at a first-come, first-served basis. Homes within 1,000 feet from an enclosed water body are first priority.

Homeowners Jesse San Giovani and Danielle Knapp-San Giovani, one of the first residents to be a part of the program, were happy to host the announcement at their waterfront Blue Point home on Monday, April 10.

“We are building on this house next year and wanted to do it right by making environmentally safe investments for our children to grow up with,” said Knapp-San Giovani, explaining their decision to apply to the program. “If we can do anything as a homeowner to help improve our waters, we are going to try to do it.”

“We are very excited to replace our current system to reduce nitrogen in not only the waterways but also the aquifers … so that we can hand off better water quality and a better life to our children,” added San Giovani.

In the coming weeks, a series of town halls will be held so that residents can hear how they can benefit from the program, just like the San Giovanis. At least four town hall meetings will take place across the county, Bellone said. The first meeting has been scheduled for Monday, April 24 in the evening at the David W. Crohan Community Center in Flanders, in the Town of Southampton. The meetings, he added, will provide residents with information on how to take advantage of the incentives, hopefully gaining their support for the program.

“I want to remind residents that we can’t do this without their support,” said Bellone, encouraging them to make their voices heard by contacting their county officials.

“It’s a program that will incentivize homeowners to replace cesspools and septic tanks without breaking the bank,” he said. “This is a fiscally responsible program that will not burden the taxpayers and will increase home values over the long run.”

Executive director of Citizens Campaign for the Environment Adrienne Esposito commended the county for working to educate the public about the program.

“The public needs to understand and also support this program so that we can achieve the objective of clean water,” she said. “I have great faith in the public. They have supported clean water programs for the last three decades and what they need is good options that make financial sense and also get the job done.”

If approved, the program would allow homeowners to apply for grants to cover the costs of advanced wastewater systems. The grants, which are estimated at about $10,000-$11,000 of the overall approximate $14,000-$17,500 cost of the system, would enable eligible homeowners to afford the new systems. In addition, homeowners would qualify to finance the remaining cost over 15 years with a 3 percent fixed interest rate. Community Development Corporation of Long Island FundingCorp would administer that loan with financial support from Bridgehampton National Bank.

According to Bellone, the public supported a referendum in 2014, which allowed the county to dedicate money for water-quality improvements. A total of $2 million a year, he said, will be allocated for this program specifically.

If properly maintained, the systems can last decades, he explained. As part of Bellone’s Reclaim Our Waters initiative, advanced wastewater treatment systems approved by the county were selected through a lottery process of 42 homeowners, who received systems at no cost. So far, three have been approved for residential use.

More than 360,000 homes in Suffolk County rely on outdated cesspools and septic systems. Comparatively, costs for a new cesspool or septic system with no capabilities to reduce nitrogen are estimated at about $6,000-$8,000, officials said.

County Heath personnel are available to answer questions regarding the program and eligibility. Any and all questions should be emailed to septicdemo@suffolkcountyny.gov.