New York’s Suffolk County to continue building infrastructure in advanced onsite systems

Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone said last fall that the county will install 1,200 nitrogen-reducing onsite systems in 2020. This would more than double the number of advanced systems installed monthly under the current grant program, he says, according to the newspaper Newsday.

The county, which occupies the eastern end of Long Island, has been troubled with near-shore pollution coming in part from onsite wastewater systems. Thousands of homes in the county rely on cesspools for treatment, and the county and some municipalities have passed laws requiring the use of nitrogen-reducing systems in new construction and for significant remodeling.

Also in New York, the East Hampton Town Board is considering an increase in the rebate program for replacement of onsite wastewater systems with nitrogen-reducing systems.

Financial support for homeowners would increase to a maximum of $20,000 — an increase of about $5,000 — and would allow the town to pay contractors directly instead of requiring property owners to pay costs upfront and then apply to the town for reimbursement. Changing from a rebate program to a direct-payment grant program will remove the possibility that homeowners need to report rebate money as taxable income, reports The Southampton Press.


After an internal debate that lasted 10 months, Kalkaska County commissioners voted 6-1 to end the county’s point-of-sale septic inspection program and a well-inspection program. The programs are operated by District Health Department No. 10.

People in favor of retaining the program told commissioners they want the government to help protect water quality. Opponents complained that the need for inspections delayed land transfers.

Because the program is through the District Health Department, the boards of all 10 counties in the health district must approve Kalkaska County’s request to withdraw. All but one county, Manistee, has done that. News reports say the Manistee County Board will take up the issue at a later date. Commissioners in Manistee recently worked to close loopholes in their inspection program.


The Clallam County Board of Health tabled a proposed septic system fee and recommended the county draw on its reserves to support a state-mandated septic program.

The health board had proposed a fee of $13 annually to fund 2 1/2 environmental health staff positions. The county is supposed to oversee regular septic system inspections, make sure failing systems are repaired and maintain accurate records. But those tasks have never been fully funded even though the county adopted its program in 2007, reports the Sequim Gazette.

On the day before the fee was tabled, the county board ordered the hiring of one environmental health person because the county had received a $240,000 grant.

Only one member of the health board voted against tabling the fee. Bob Lake told the other board members that by telling the county to use reserves, the cost of the program would be partly borne by people who don’t have septic systems instead of only by those who do.

Clallam County occupies the northern shore of the Olympic Peninsula from the Pacific Ocean almost to the mouth of Puget Sound.

Also in Washington, for years people have wondered about high bacteria counts in Whipple Creek. “Traditional measures of bacteria, they tell you that bacteria is there, but they don’t tell you what it’s from,” Jeff Schnabel, stormwater infrastructure manager with Clark County Public Works tells The Columbian newspaper of Vancouver.

Advanced molecular testing found markers of human intestinal bacteria in five tributaries of the creek, which empties into the Columbia River. That result suggests failing septic systems are releasing bacteria, the newspaper says.

County ordinances require gravity septic systems to be checked every three years by a county-certified inspector. Pressure systems must be inspected every two years, and advanced systems require annual inspections.

Chuck Harman, onsite septic program manager for Clark County Public Health, says his department would use the results to work with property owners. Clark County is on the north bank of the Columbia River, opposite Portland, Oregon.


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