In November, a Sea Cliff resident successfully installed Nassau County’s first ever nitrogen-removing clean water septic system. After Hurricane Ida flooded this homeowner’s basement and collapsed the cesspool, he began research on how to upgrade to a clean water septic system. The homeowner applied for and was awarded grants from both Nassau County and New York State to supplement the acquisition and installation of the new system. When all was said and done, the homeowner paid significantly less for a clean water septic system than he would have paid for a conventional cesspool and septic tank. It was a win-win for the homeowner’s wallet and Nassau’s water quality.
For decades, the North Shore of Nassau County has been plagued by harmful algal blooms, dense invasive seaweed, fish kills and beach closures. These problems are the result of nitrogen filled wastewater leaking from septic tanks and cesspools into our waters. To reduce nitrogen levels to comply with EPA guidelines, the North Shore must upgrade more than 20,000 septic systems with clean water technology.
In addition to reducing nitrogen in our bays, beaches and harbors, it is critical that we treat septic wastewater before it contaminates our drinking water. Our community sits directly above the Oyster Bay Special Groundwater Protection Area, where fresh water replenishes a deep recharge aquifer. Any untreated wastewater that flows into the aquifer will eventually make its way into our drinking water.
But there’s good news! – It’s a fixable problem if we act now.
Clean water septic systems, which can remove more than 70% of nitrogen from wastewater, convert toxic liquid wastewater into a harmless gas by harnessing natural processes.
As of May 2021, Nassau County homeowners and small business owners became eligible for grant funding from the Soil and Water Conservation District’s SEPTIC program. It can cover up to 90% of the cost to install. Of the 200 available spots, more than 115 applications have been received and 20 clean water septic tanks are on their way to being installed. With support from the Land Alliance’s Water Quality Improvement Program (WQIP), Nassau SEPTIC successfully secured an additional $2 million in funding from the American Rescue Plan, bringing the total SEPTIC grant to $20,000 per applicant. If you are interested in applying for a clean water septic grant, please reach out to our WQIP Coordinator Kat Coughlin. She can assist you with every step of the application and permitting process (free of charge).
Our WQIP was designed to improve local water quality. To do so, we need to reduce the source of the nitrogen that is polluting our waters. Thanks to the leadership of The Nature Conservancy and funding from the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation and Scotts Miracle-Gro Foundation, we have the capacity to help homeowners and small business owners move through the process as quickly and easily as possible.
Nitrogen pollution in our waterways is a problem we can fix. Converting conventional septic systems to clean-water models is a critical step. Working together, we can restore and protect Long Island’s waters. Our future depends on it.
For more information on how you can get involved Go to www.upgradeyourseptic.org or call the Land Alliance at 516-922-1028.