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Town engineers: We need an inventory of septic systems — now

water quality

As the Suffolk County health department prepares to release its new regulations on septic systems later this year, Southold engineers want to draft a report of their own in the meantime.

During a presentation at the Town Board’s meeting Tuesday, town engineers Michael Collins and Jamie Richter proposed compiling an inventory of all the septic systems in the area.

When Suffolk County releases its new regulations — and details about potential sources of funding for septic system upgrades — the town could use the inventory to target the oldest and largest systems.

Aging septic systems pose a threat to the environment, experts say, because nitrogen can leech into the watershed and wreak havoc on the ecosystems.

Mr. Collins said he has discussed having a student from Stony Brook University’s geographic information systems department to help the town develop the list over the summer and work on creating a database of all septic systems in town.

Mr. Collins said the county has identified 360,000 septic systems across the area, but those only include residential setups. While the county should have records detailing all the septic systems in Southold Town, those documents are not digitized and would take too long to sift through, he said.

“Apparently, they have the information — they just don’t use it,” Supervisor Scott Russell said. “As a town, we need to get ready. Quite frankly, we’re going to do what every other jurisdiction should be doing.”

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Photo caption: Rust tide caused by Cochlodinium in Peconic Estuary in 2012. (Credit: Bill Portlock)