Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone has signed a new cesspool-banning law designed to curb the amount of nitrogen flowing into the county’s bays and other waterways.

According to Suffolk County officials, cesspools are a leading contributor to water pollution that has led to algae blooms, such as brown tides, beach closures and the overall depletion of aquatic life.

Lawmakers, civic leaders and environmentalists rallied behind the county executive last week, standing next to him by the heavily polluted Lake Ronkonkoma, to support the new legislation.

“It is fairly unusual for the local governments, environmental groups and the region’s largest builders’ group to agree on the importance of tightening up outdated regulations to protect water quality, but that is exactly what happened in this instance,” Bellone said at the Dec. 21 signing ceremony.

Cesspools have been banned in new construction in Suffolk County since 1973, but prior to the new law homeowners could replace already existing systems that were grandfathered in.

The new legislation closes what lawmakers described as a loophole, forcing people to add environmentally-friendly systems when their old cesspools fail.

The county has instituted a financing program to help pay for the nitrogen-reducing system.

New York State is also awarding Suffolk County money from its Septic System Replacement Fund to help pay for the pricy new technology, known as denitrification systems.

In addition, the county’s Department of Health Services will be heavily monitoring wastewater systems by collecting data on systems, activities and replacements, starting in July 2018.

And in July, 2019, residents will be required to obtain a permit when replacing systems.

“We can no longer allow inadequately treated sewage to mix with our sole source of drinking water,” said the executive director of Citizens Campaign for the Environment, Adrienne Esposito.

“Kudos to County Executive Bellone and the Suffolk Legislature for updating our antiquated health codes and continuing the fight to protect public health.”

Photo Credit: Save the Great South Bay/Facebook

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