So Long Septic Tanks

So Long Septic Tanks

A $4 billion plan is coming to Suffolk County, N.Y. The plan is to reduce nitrogen pollution in groundwater and surface water by eliminating septic systems and cesspools.

More than 250,000 cesspools will be eliminated countywide and the county will replace them with wastewater systems or connect properties to existing sewer districts.

Approximately 75 percent of county residents rely on cesspools or septic tanks. If the plan is fully implemented, poor water quality could reverse in the next decade.

Since the 1980s, concentrations of nitrogen have increased on Long Island surface waters. According to the Long Island Commission for Aquifer Protection, between 1987 and 2005, levels rose 200 percent and are expected to continue rising.  The negatives of this kind of rise is the decline in shellfish along with harmful algae blooms.

Algae blooms are partly due to the aging sewer system within the county, where 74 percent of residences are not connected to the public sewer system and 70 percent of nitrogen in local bays comes from more than 360,000 septic systems and cesspools.