Suffolk County Department of Health Services (SCDHS) is implementing changes to the Suffolk County Sanitary Code which were approved in 2017 and take effect on July 1, 2019. Though new code provisions do not require that homeowners make any changes to existing systems, they do require that when homeowners choose to replace existing cesspools and septic systems, the new systems meet the same minimum standards that have been required for entirely new systems since 1973. For the first time, replacement of existing cesspools and septic systems will require registration of the new system with the Department of Health Services.
Beginning on August 1, 2019, when property owners determine that their systems need to be replaced or retrofitted, approval for the replacement or retrofit must be obtained from the health department. Approval can be obtained through the submission of an electronic registration form completed by the licensed liquid waste contractor hired by a homeowner to replace an existing cesspool or septic system. The new system must conform to current standards, which require, at a minimum, a septic tank preceding a leaching structure. The changes are codified in Article 6 of the Suffolk County Sanitary Code.
The health department has established a streamlined regulatory process to implement the new requirements. Licensed liquid waste contractors can initially notify the department of their intent to replace or retrofit a property owner’s existing cesspool or septic system through a dedicated county web portal at http://ship.suffolkcountyny.gov. Once the work is completed, contractors must submit documentation indicating the system components installed. Health department staff will be available to assist licensed liquid waste contractors to address any issues related to the installation of a replacement or system retrofit. Homeowners may also voluntarily install innovative, onsite wastewater-treatment systems, which are designed to reduce nitrogen pollution, as an alternative to the use of a conventional septic system when replacing an existing cesspool or septic system.
Cesspools and septic systems have been identified as the primary source of nitrogen pollution that contributes to harmful algal blooms, beach closures and fish kills that have become increasingly common over the past decade. Currently, 75 percent of Suffolk County is unsewered, with approximately 360,000 residential onsite sewage disposal systems. Approximately 250,000 of these systems are cesspools, which discharge raw, untreated human waste and can contaminate surface and groundwater sources and contribute to harmful algal blooms.
Installation of a complete conventional septic system, consisting of a septic tank and leaching structure, can typically range from $6,000 to $8,000 per installation. Innovative alternative onsite wastewater systems (IA/OWTS) installations have an average cost of $22,000 for a standard site. Suffolk County is currently offering incentives of up to $30,000 to homeowners who opt to replace their current wastewater systems with innovative advanced treatment systems under the Suffolk County Septic Improvement Program and New York State's Septic System Replacement Program, administered by the Suffolk County Health Department.
For more information about the new requirements and to learn more about the County’s Septic Improvement Program, homeowners can visit the www.reclaimourwater.info or contact the Department of Health Services Office of Ecology by email at email@example.com or by phone at (631)852-5811.
Overview of 2017 Article 6 Amendments Regarding the Elimination of In-Kind Cesspool Replacement
Certification of Sewage Disposal System – WWM-078
Certification of Constructed Works – WWM-073
Overview of SCDHS Requirements For Replacing Sanitary Systems
SCDHS Replacement and Retrofit Standards