As outlined in our prior blog by Anthony S. Guardino, posted on March 20, 2017 entitled, “East Hampton Considers New Laws Mandating Nitrogen-Reducing Sanitary Systems and Offering Rebates to Replace Existing Systems”, similar to the Towns of East Hampton and Brookhaven, the Town of Southampton adopted a local law on July 25, 2017 requiring advanced nitrogen-reducing sanitary systems starting September 1, 2017.
The Town will require an Innovative and Alternative On-Site Wastewater Treatment System (“I/A OWTS”) for (i) all new residential construction; (ii) any substantial septic upgrades required by the Suffolk County Department of Health Services; and (iii) any increase of 25% or more in the floor area of a building for those projects located in the “High Priority Area” as defined by the Community Preservation Water Quality Improvement Plan Project (“CP WQIPP”). In addition, an I/A OWTS shall be required for any new septic system or a substantial septic system upgrade required by the Conservation Board or Environment Division pursuant to Town Code Chapter 325, Wetlands.
The I/A OWTS is defined in the Town Code as “an onsite decentralized wastewater treatment system that, at a minimum, is designed to result in total nitrogen in treated effluent of 19 mg/l or less, as approved by the Suffolk County Department of Health Services.”
Southampton is also offering a rebate program through its Community Preservation Fund for systems within the Medium and High Priority Areas of the CP WQIPP with the following qualifying limits: (i) if you earn less than $300,000 /year, up to 100% of the cost to a maximum of $15,000 is available and (ii) if you earn between $300,001 – $500,000/year, up to 50% of the cost to a maximum of $15,000 is available.
Prior to implementing the updated septic requirements, the Town of Southampton studied the need for such systems and drafted the Community Preservation Water Quality Preservation Plan Project. The CP WQIPP thoroughly identifies and reviews the need for the required sanitary upgrades, finds consistency with the Town’s Comprehensive Plan and outlines how the Town characterized the high and medium priority properties that are now required to comply with the law.
Specifically, the CP WQIPP states:“The WQIPP presented herein is designed to complement the 2015 Town of Southampton CPF Project Plan, by markedly advancing efforts to foster aquatic habitat and watershed restoration, promote flushing in our bays and tidal systems, abate non-point source pollution and runoff, reduce sewage discharges and nitrogen inputs, and reverse or stem other activities threatening our coastal resources and drinking water aquifers.”
The Town of Southampton has preliminarily mapped priority areas for the purpose of this plan, based on the following criteria:
- Locations with no public water (well water);
- Older communities, where many of the homes are likely to have cesspools instead of septic systems;
- Homes that are built on small lots (less than half-acre);
- Sites that have shallow depths to groundwater (e.g. less than 10 feet);
- Sites that may be temporarily under threat of flooding or storm surge (FEMA Flood zones, SLOSH7 zones);
- Soils that may be too porous or too impermeable for proper treatment of wastewater;
- Areas where groundwater reaches surface water bodies relatively quickly;
- Nearby water bodies listed as TMDL impaired or the site of restoration efforts.
Parcels in each hamlet that meet one or more of these criteria are delineated on the maps as high or medium priority as follows:
High Priority: A combination of the parameters described above (SLOSH, FEMA, TMDL, Size, etc.) and 0-2 year groundwater to surface water travel times.
Medium Priority: 0-10 year groundwater to surface water travel times excluding the areas in the High Priority above.
The CP WQIPP also includes maps of the entire Town delineating the High Priority Areas (all waterfront/coastal properties in the Town) and Medium Priority Areas. Although these low nitrogen systems require ongoing monitoring and maintenance, the Southampton law does not require ongoing inspections by the Town. The Town of Southampton has set up a helpful website where property owners can look up their specific property to determine if they are located in a High or Medium Priority area. Notably, the Town of East Hampton adopted its local law requiring nitrogen-reducing sanitary systems on August 8, 2017, however, the portion of the law requiring the new, nitrogen-reducing sanitary system does not take effect until January 1, 2018.