Time Running Out - 27 East


Southampton Press / Opinion / Letters / 2042603

Time Running Out

The East End water bodies are in peril, and it’s our fault.

For decades upon decades, nutrients from human sources, nitrogen and phosphorus, have been building in our water bodies and feeding noxious algal blooms. We have seen the consequences in the die-off of shellfish in our bays and in health warnings for our ponds.

Runoff from residential properties and farms is a factor, but the largest contributor by far has been identified as groundwater seepage from septic systems.

Michael Wright reported on a remediation measure, a type of permeable reactive barrier being deployed at Three Mile Harbor [“East Hampton Pioneers Underground Nitrogen Barrier on Three Mile Harbor,” 27east.com, September 21]. The PRB will cost over $400,000 and would be the first of several proposed to block nitrogen from passing via groundwater into our water bodies.

PRBs should help, but they are an indirect answer to the problem of nutrients seeping through the ground. Wright reported: “A broad effort to upgrade septic systems across eastern Long Island is seen as the only ultimate solution to the issue of outdated septics leaching high levels of nitrogen from human urine into groundwater — but that strategy is likely to take decades to fully implement and could take decades longer before the benefits are realized.”

We do not have decades. Our waters are beyond the tipping point.

Amazingly, our East End towns have had virtually full-cost subsidies for septic system replacements for a few years. How is it possible we continue fouling our waters when we already have in place the funding for septic replacement?

Whether it is reluctance of property owners to have their properties disturbed during installation, or aesthetic concerns about access lids, these reasons are not substantial when compared to the damage being done to our sensitive waters. Property values also are affected.

Voluntary septic replacement is not the solution, and our town boards and Town Trustees know it from the installation data. New septic system technology is already required for new construction and major renovations. However, to achieve the goal of clear waters, what is truly needed is legislation for replacement mandates, starting with properties adjacent to water bodies and expanding the circles outward over time.

Ideally, the towns can just legislate this action. People do accept government intrusion when the need is communicated and made clear. Perhaps our town boards need to consider putting this to a public referendum, mandated reimbursed septic replacement.

Time is of the essence.

Steve Abramson


Mill Pond Committee

Water Mill Citizens Advisory Committee