Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone today announced several new endorsements from business and labor leaders across Long Island who support the County’s proposal to establish the first-ever Reclaim Our Water Septic Improvement Program. These supporters have been encouraged by the County’s aggressive actions to combat nitrogen and other harmful pollutants that have been responsible for negatively impacting ground and surface waters, leading to widespread beach closures, harmful algae blooms and fish kills. The Long Island Builders Institute, Long Island Contractors’ Association and Long Island Regional Planning Council had already expressed support for the program.
“Nitrogen pollution has been identified as the single greatest threat to water quality, but for the first time in decades, we have an historic opportunity to turn the tide in our effort to reclaim our waters," said County Executive Bellone. “This first of its kind program would not only benefit homeowners but also serve as a long-term investment by helping to launch a new industry that will create high-skilled jobs. That’s why both business leaders and environmentalists are supporting the program.”
Robert Salvatico, President, Hotel Indigo East, said: "A vibrant tourism industry is an essential economic component of a growing Long Island economy. With all of its many benefits, it comes with environmental challenges to Long Island’s ecosystem, the most prominent of which is nitrogen pollution. As a Long Island owned business, we have been committed to reducing our impact on the local environment and we have invested significant funds in developing a workable solution that mitigates this problem. We applaud and totally support the vision and efforts of County Executive Steve Bellone in establishing the “Reclaim Our Water Septic Improvement Program.”
Tony Tanzi, President of the Kings Park Chamber of Commerce, said: “As a business owner, resident and most importantly a parent trying to raise a family here on Long island, I think it’s vitally important to take significant steps to protect our ground water. I applaud the County Executive Bellone for taking the initiative to do just that. We cannot and should not continue to jeopardize our most important natural asset, the water under and around where we live.”
Robert Kern, President of the Riverhead Chamber of Commerce, said: "I want to thank the county executive for his leadership with this important initiative, which will have a profound positive effect on the quality of all life for eastern Long Island."
Marc Herbst, Executive Director of the Long Island Contractors’ Association, Inc., said: “The region is surrounded with crucial infrastructure projects that are in disrepair, poorly maintained or on the verge of failure because they lack advocates. If there is any debate over that observation one merely has to observe the collapse of Penn Station. Today, the demand for a septic system that can protect our environment, ensure our future and allow for responsible economic growth is self-evident but, equally important, it now has a constituency that will insist on its construction and maintenance. LICA stands ready to advocate for this important effort that is an essential part of our ability to protect and enhance our region.”
Mitchell H. Pally, Chief Executive Officer of the Long Island Builders Institute, said: "The Long Island Builders Institute strongly supports the initiative of County Executive Steve Bellone to reduce nitrogen intrusion into our groundwater and supports this and any other program to assist our current and future homeowners in financing the installation of a new advanced system. We look forward to continue to work with the County Executive to fashion a program which is constructive and equitable to all concerned, especially those whose current systems have failed to adequately treat the nitrogen from their homes."
Michael Osinski, Former President of the Long Island Oyster Growers Association, said:“Healthy bays are essential to us. Our industry cleans the bays and provides fish habitat as a bonus to our cultivation of the healthiest of all animal proteins. Suffolk has lagged in its efforts to control street runoff and nitrogen seepage; and the Long Island Oyster Growers Association applauds its recent efforts to join LIOGA in improving the quality of our glorious bays, creeks and inlets."
The proposed Septic Improvement Program has been hailed as a bold and achievable initiative that incentivizes homeowners to replace their outdated septic and cesspool systems through low-cost and affordable financial assistance from Suffolk County. The County Executive recently introduced legislation to create this model pilot program that must go before the Suffolk County Legislature as part of its review process. The Program would allow homeowners to apply for a grant to cover the cost of an advanced wastewater treatment system. The grant, which is estimated in the amount of $10,000 or $11,000 would enable eligible homeowners to cover the costs of systems that cost between $14,500 and $17,500.
In addition to the grant, homeowners could qualify to finance the remaining cost over 15 years at a low three percent fixed interest rate. The loan program will be administered by Community Development Corporation of Long Island Funding Corp., with financial support from Bridgehampton National Bank. Comparatively, the cost to replace and install a new cesspool or septic system with no capabilities to reduce nitrogen is estimated between $6,000-$8,000.
If approved, the Program would be scheduled to launch July 1 through an application process, where an estimated 400 Suffolk County homeowners would be selected to receive the funding under the first two years of the program. Through the year 2021, the program will be funded with $2 million each year from the Suffolk County Assessment Stabilization Reserve Fund.
Since December 2014, Suffolk County’s Septic Demonstration Pilot Program has tested new wastewater treatment technologies to reduce nitrogen pollution. Through a lottery process, the County has so far selected 42 homeowners to receive a system at no cost, including free installation, maintenance and monitoring for five years. More than 360,000 homes in Suffolk County, more than the entire state of New Jersey, rely on outdated cesspools and septic systems that do not treat properly wastewater to remove nitrogen.
For more information on the County’s Septic Improvement Program, please visit www.suffolkcountyny.gov.