Suffolk County Executive Steven Bellone (D) gathered with public officials and members of the community on Thursday to celebrate the third annual national SepticSmart Week.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s SepticSmart Week, which runs from Sept. 21 to 25, is a nationally-recognized week meant to inform and encourage homeowners on how to properly maintain their septic systems.
Suffolk County officials also hope this week will educate homeowners on how their septic systems impact local water quality.
“It’s a time to focus on the issues that are and haven driven water quality, and the issues that allow us to reverse the decline we’ve seen in our water quality,” Bellone said.
Suffolk County currently has 360,000 unsewered lots with cesspools and septic systems that contribute to nitrogen pollution in the county’s surface and groundwater, according to a statement from Bellone’s office. More innovative wastewater septic systems and updated programs will help reverse the decades of decline in the county’s water, the county executive said.
“This is a testament to the importance of this problem,” Suffolk County Legislator Kara Hahn (D- Setauket) said. “Nitrogen is seeping into our groundwater and reeking havoc.”
Bellone’s “Reclaim Our Water” initiative is one that partners with the liquid waste industry to overhaul the county’s liquid waste licensing program. Changes proposed to the licensing process would require training and continuing education for the many specialized services within the liquid waste field.
“These proposed training and requirements will create accountability and increase consumer confidence, as property owners can be assured that the company they hire has been trained to best service the specific septic system they have and protect Suffolk County’s ground water,” according to a statement from Bellone’s office.
Bellone said a partnership Suffolk County has developed with the Long Island Liquid Waste Association is helping improve relationships between the private sector and their customers in water waste management.
“It’s making sure the private sector is set with the tools they need to help homeowners with these new advanced waste water septic systems,” Bellone said.
Other members of Suffolk County government were excited by the new water quality initiatives.
“We’re involved in a historic initiative in Suffolk County to address a serious threat to our environment and our economy,” Peter Scully, deputy county executive for water quality said. “We’re always happy and anxious to work with the private sector on solutions.”
This event was held at Nesconset resident Alan Marvin’s home. Officials inspected Marvin’s cesspool and observed how it had changed over time.
Marvin said he was lucky to be have been chosen because he learned afterwards that his septic system is set to overflow by December, and he would have had to call for emergency services. He said he was not aware of that.
“It’s an important issue,” he said. “I don’t think most homeowners realize when they go to the bathroom what it affects. This is a good way for Suffolk County residents to learn.”