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Southold Town encourages advanced wastewater systems

Southold Town officials are eager for residents to consider installing advanced water systems now that Suffolk County has approved two types that homeowners can install without going through a special review process.

The new alternative systems are not currently required by either the county or the town, although officials expect they likely will be in the future.

The alternative systems will remove more nitrogen from the groundwater than traditional cesspool rings, which don’t remove nitrogen, and town engineer Michael Collins said the county continues to test other alternative wastewater systems that could be approved in future, as well.

Scientists have pointed to cesspools, particularly those near water, as a major source of nitrogen pollution, which in turn leads to algae blooms and impaired shellfish.

So how much do these new systems cost?

“The number they keep throwing around is about $15,000, whereas the traditional cesspool is about $6,000,” Mr. Collins said at last Wednesday’s Town Board work session.

But he added that the price should come down in the future as more alternative systems are put  in place and as installers become familiar with the technology.

Mr. Collins said the two authorized systems will not require approval from the county’s board of review and can be approved just like ordinary cesspools.

Town officials hope the public will begin adopting the advanced systems voluntarily.

Councilman Bill Ruland said he thinks the town should hold a “wastewater symposium” to get the word out to residents.

“We’re at a point where we’ve been encouraged by a number of outside organizations that this town should adopt more stringent septic requirements,” Mr. Ruland said.

In the future, he said, it will be more difficult to require existing homes to upgrade their septic systems than it would be to require them in new construction.

Councilwoman Jill Doherty suggested adding a link on the town website and putting pamphlets in the building department office so builders will know about the new technology.

“This has been a discussion in our town, on and off, for the last 12 to 18 months,” Mr. Ruland said.

“The question now is whether or not, as a town, we should consider selecting places where these are required or to say that anything new needs to have these,” Councilman Bob Ghosio said.

“We can require them now,” Supervisor Scott Russell said of the advanced systems. “The question is whether we want to go there.”

Councilman Jim Dinizio said the new systems also will require more land than traditional systems.

Mr. Collins said the county health department is considering reducing the size of the required leaching field if the unit achieves certain levels of treatment.

Mr. Ruland suggested that at some point in the future, the new systems likely will be required.

Officials said that such advanced systems are more likely to be required in areas near the water.

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