New Wastewater Treatment Program Aims To Replace Cesspools On Nassau County’s North Shore

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Nassau County Legislator Mazi Melesa Pilip speaks at an event commemorating the 100th replacement of a cesspool under the SEPTIC Program.
Courtesy William Florio

The Nassau County Legislature and a number of environmental groups celebrated the 100th installation of an Innovative and Alternative Onsite Wastewater Treatment system (I/A OWTS), part of a new program in the county known as the SEPTIC Replacement Program.

The program grants eligible property owners up to $20,000 for nitrogen reducing septic upgrades.

Protecting Water Quality On Nassau County’s North Shore

According to a news release by the Nassau Legislature, thousands of homes and small businesses in Nassau County located along the North Shore are currently served by cesspools and septic systems — which are a threat to water quality due to the amount of nitrogen they release into the soil and groundwater.

“Reversing degradation of water quality will depend on replacement of existing systems with new, individual I/A OWTS designed to remove nitrogen,” the legislature said in a news release. “When properly designed, sited, installed, managed, and maintained, these new septic systems provide a cost-effective and environmentally sound alternative to sewers in areas that are outside designated sewer areas. These systems significantly reduce nitrogen, biochemical oxygen demand and total suspended solids, before being discharged below grade to leaching structures.”

Nassau County residents and businesses that discharge less than 1000 gallons of wastewater a day are eligible for grants to install these new septic systems. The grants are funded by the New York State Environmental Facilities Corporation and Nassau County’s American Rescue Plan Act funds.

“Being on an island, water is one of our most precious resources, for both public health and our economy,” Nassau County Legislator Mazi Melesa Pilip said. “This grant program allows us to ease the financial impact for residents when it comes to replacing outdated and environmentally harmful septic systems and take the necessary steps to protect and preserve our water quality and the environment for future generations. Our north shore communities will benefit greatly from this program, and I urge anyone who qualifies to take advantage of it.”

Malfunctioning septic systems are one of the leading causes of groundwater pollution on Long Island. Nitrogen, disease-causing bacteria and viruses from wastewater can contaminate drinking water supplies. Septic system failure is also one of the leading sources of surface water pollution, contributing to toxic algae blooms and the suffocation of aquatic life.

“The Nassau County S.E.P.T.I.C. program is a critical component of the Long Island Nitrogen Action Plan and its goal of reducing nitrogen discharge into waters across Long Island.  With close to 100 Advanced Nitrogen-Reducing septic system installations to date, the program has been a success largely thanks to the support of the County, specifically Presiding Officer Nicolello, and County Executive Blakeman’s administration,” Derek Betts, District Manager of the Nassau County Soil and Water Conservation District, said.

“Not only has the County matched state septic funds to increase individual award amounts from $10,000 to $20,000, but its constant engagement with the program has allowed the District to streamline the County reimbursement process and help pioneering County residents get Advanced Nitrogen-Reducing septic systems into the ground while avoiding the pitfalls of onerous out-of-pocket expenses. We look forward to the continued growth of the program and the beneficial effects it will have on Long Island’s aquifers and coastal waters.”

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Nassau County politicians and environmental advocates display the installation of I/A OWTS.Courtesy William Florio

Other Initiatives To Improve Water Quality in Nassau County

This initiative, based on the North Shore, is not the only action taken recently by the county to combat this water quality issue. On the South Shore, there has been the Bay Park Conveyance Project, which, rather than targeting individual homes or septic systems, instead aims to redirect treated wastewater from the Bay Park facility to the Cedar Creek facility.

The Bay Park facility pumps the nitrogen-heavy treated water into the bay, which has caused the decline of marine life in Nassau’s western bays, whereas the Cedar Creek plant pumps the water several miles out into the ocean.