Southampton Town Supervisor Jay Schneiderman said this week that he expects Southampton to follow East Hampton Town’s lead and soon mandate that new construction and substantial expansions of homes include the installation of nitrogen-reducing septic systems.
Officials in both towns continued grinding over how the newly well-funded effort to combat nitrogen pollution in local waters will proceed, even as they are still learning the rules that will dictate how they may use the money.
East Hampton officials recently said they discovered that the CPF law does not allow the 20 percent of annual revenues that may be directed to water quality projects to be rolled over to the following year if not appropriated in a given year—ramping up the urgency to get projects under way quickly, as money is available for 2017.
Mr. Schneiderman said that town attorneys are currently drafting his town’s legislation and that the Southampton Town Board expects to propose the laws soon and bring them up for public hearing by next month.
The Southampton supervisor—a former East Hampton Town supervisor—said that he expects the Southampton codes will only call for the new technology to be mandated in areas where septic pollution could quickly reach sensitive surface waters, like bays and ponds. A number of scientific analyses have mapped areas where groundwater flow can carry untreated wastewater into open water bodies within two years and identified those areas as the most critical for widespread upgrades to septic systems.
Also in line with an initiative that East Hampton unveiled earlier this month but has yet to officially propose as law, Southampton will be moving forward with aggressive rebate programs using money from the Community Preservation Fund to incentivize homeowners of houses with aging or obsolete waste systems to replace them with the latest technology.
East Hampton could tap as much as $6 million of its CPF fund this year for water quality projects, Southampton nearly double that amount. With a mandate that if the money is not spent, or earmarked, in the calendar year it must be put into the general CPF account and can’t be used for water quality improvement projects in the future, both towns are looking to come out of the gate fast.
“We have to get a good law adopted, we have to convince homeowners that it’s a good thing,” East Hampton Supervisor Larry Cantwell said. “The sooner we get started the sooner we can start to get our hands around this problem.”
With new nitrogen-reduction systems slashing the amount of nitrogen by more than half, the replacement incentives look to be the main focus of the spending in the two towns in 2017.
East Hampton has said it will give thousands of homeowners up to $15,000 to replace their cesspools or ineffective septic systems with one of the dozen or so nitrogen-reducing systems that are expected to be approved by the Suffolk County Department of Health for use in residential properties by this summer.
State Assemblyman Fred W. Thiele Jr. said that towns would likely be allowed under the CPF law to earmark funding for ongoing projects, like the replacement rebates, from a given year’s revenues and spend the money in a subsequent year, lifting slightly the time pressure on the use of the money.
Mr. Cantwell said he expects the towns to have no problem finding beneficial outlets for funding that will help water quality.
“If the average rebate falls somewhere between $5,000 and $15,000, so let’s say $10,000, we can replace 600 systems this year with that money,” Mr. Cantwell said. “If we’re replacing 600 systems a year, I think that’s a good start.”
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