New York State Parks Department officials say septic systems at five state parks – including Wildwood State Park in Wading River – are not in compliance with current septic treatment standards and will be upgraded.
The announcement follow the Peconic Baykeeper’s notice that it intends to sue the parks department in federal court for using outdated systems at those same parks because the systems violate the U.S. Clean Water Act
“State parks began its review of the septic systems immediately after becoming aware of the allegations made by Peconic Baykeeper,” said Dan Keefe, a department spokesman.
Parks officials announced last Monday that the department has entered into a consent order, or agreement, with the state Department of Environmental Conservation to update 30 septic systems at the parks, which were found to be outdated and no longer compliant with current septic treatment standards.
The cost of the updates, which will include four of 20 septic systems at the Wading River park, is at more than $5 million, Mr. Keefe said.
The agreement also includes a $250,000 project to install nitrogen reduction technology at one of the park locations, according to a parks department press release.
On July 16, Peconic Baykeeper president Kevin McAllister announced his intent to sue the state for violating the Clean Water Act by failing to have National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permits, which are aimed at controlling the amount of pollutants entering the nation’s surface waters.
According to the July 16 legal notice, Wildwood park has been utilizing Class V large-capacity cesspools, which were banned by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency in April 2005 to protect drinking water.
Federal law requires at least 90 days’ advance notice of a lawsuit, so the action against the parks department could not be filed until now, Mr. McAllister said.
“We’re not going away. Our plan is to go forward with this,” he told this newspaper.
“The consent order does not go far enough – it doesn’t address the nitrogen loading coming from these systems,” Mr. McAllister said. “Some 1,000 toilet flushes are entering the groundwater from those facilities each day … it doesn’t sound as though they are going to make the commitment to real upgrades which would denitrify the wastewater.”
Mr. McAllister said he and attorney Reed Super plan to file the lawsuit sometime next week.
“We want to see denitrification systems. If they are going to be ripping these things out of the ground, it’s an opportunity to do the right thing. New York State should be leading the way with respect to more advanced wastewater treatment,” he said. “Their version of upgraded is not our version.”
The actions Peconic Baykeeper has filed against the state DEC and parks department are being undertaken in partnership with Long Island Soundkeeper, based in Connecticut.