Suffolk County Introduces New I/A OWTS Requirements Effective July 1

Septic improvement and innovative treatment systems are required in Suffolk County in accordance with new changes passed by Suffolk County Legislature in October 2020. The changes are effective July 1, 2021 and require I/A OWTS to be installed under a number of circumstances.

What Projects are Impacted by the New Legislation?

Nitrogen-reducing systems are required for the following projects:

  • New family residential construction
  • Projects considered “Major Reconstruction”
  • New multi-family or non-residential projects where one of the following systems would be permitted:
    • Individual Sewerage System
    • Subsurface Sewage Disposal System
  • All new commercial projects

Reconstruction projects are considered “major,” when the costs of reconstruction are 50% or more than the market value of the structure. For example, if a structure’s value is $100,000 and it costs $60,000 to reconstruct or repair, this would fall under the “major reconstruction” classification.

What Projects are Exempt Under the New Legislation?

Septic improvements and alternative onsite wastewater treatment systems are exempt from the following:

  • Any project, to an existing structure, that isn’t considered a major reconstruction
  • Projects where a proposed sewer district exists

If a project is a non-major reconstruction, it will be exempt as long as the following requirements are met:

  • The bedrooms of the structure do not exceed previous approvals by the Department of Health
  • There are no changes to the residence’s footprint, overall square footage and no more than 5 proposed bedrooms

If you’re unsure whether your project is exempt from the new requirements, Bridgewater Environmental offers a free consultation service we encourage you to take advantage of!

Why Did the County Approve Septic Requirement Changes?

Suffolk County has put these new regulations in place to address the problem of nitrogen entering ground and surface water. High nitrogen levels cause harmful algae blooms that impact water quality, create water dead zones, increase the treatment cost of drinking water, and stifle some ecosystems. Alternative septic systems work to reduce nitrogen to keep the county’s water sources clean.

High nitrogen levels in the county have impacted local water sources, including harbors, bays and rivers. Even local drinking water supply is at risk due to the high nitrogen levels.

A lack of sewer system infrastructure in most of the county has exacerbated the issue.

Alternative systems will begin to rectify the issue, allowing for cleaner, healthier drinking water, rivers, bays, and other waterways. Individual septic replacements offer a path forward to cleaner water without the massive undertaking of new sewer system infrastructure.

The county has taken many steps in the last five years to reduce septic system and cesspool usage. Suffolk County launched its Septic Improvement Program in 2017 to help cover the expense of upgrading local systems.

The program offers the following:

Grants have already been awarded to over 1,000 applicants to cover some or all of the cost of their new I/A OWTS systems.

Officials hope that the new law, along with the financial assistance being offered, will lead to more residents and businesses understanding the importance of restoring water quality in the county, and taking action to address the need for change. Water quality has been on the decline for decades, and reversing the trend now will lead to cleaner water for generations to come.

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