The East Hampton Town Board voted last Thursday to increase incentives for property owners to replace conventional septic systems with new, low-nitrogen systems approved by the Suffolk County Health Department.
In August, the town’s Water Quality Technical Advisory Committee presented recommendations to modify the town’s rebate program, an effort to spur residents to replace aging or failing sanitary systems in order to improve ecologically degraded waterways. Among other things, excess nitrogen in waterways is blamed for promoting harmful algal blooms, which can render water unsafe for humans and pets and kill finfish and shellfish.
The program was launched last year with a percentage of community preservation fund money to incentivize property owners to take action, but yielded few participants.
Last week, the board unanimously adopted the committee’s recommendations to increase the maximum disbursement within water protection districts, where the need to replace old sanitary systems is most acute, from $16,000 to $20,000, and from $10,000 to $15,000 elsewhere. There are approximately 7,000 residences in water protection districts, of roughly 19,000 over all.
The average cost of a septic system replacement is around $31,500, an official in the town’s Natural Resources Department told the board in August, with present out-of-pocket cost after town, Suffolk County, and New York State rebates averaging $6,000. “This will help incentivize the transition to low-nitrogen systems by covering nearly all the expenses associated with that work for residents,” Supervisor Peter Van Scoyoc said in September. “We think these revisions . . . will help further incentivize and gain more interest in this process.”
Next Thursday, the board will hold a public hearing on further changes to the code that would reflect a change in emphasis from “rebate” to “incentive” as it pertains to septic system replacement. The intent is to improve the program’s functionality and streamline the process.