There are still issues to be ironed out, but applications for town rebates for those who want to replace their existing cesspools or septic systems with one of the Suffolk County approved nitrogen-reducing systems can submit their requests beginning next Monday, November 20.
That decision was reached at Tuesday’s Town Board work session following a presentation by Greg Toner, a member of the Water Quality Improvement Projects Advisory Board.
The application is available on the town website or can be obtained at the Town Clerk’s office.
Throughout the past few weeks, the Water Quality Board and the Town Board have hustled to try to get the process moving so at least some residents could see money allocated to their projects before the end of the year. The plan is to recommend those projects that pass muster with the Water Quality Board to the Town Board for a final decision and then to put aside the funds that would likely be paid in 2018 as each project is completed.
State law prohibits rebates to owners of newly built houses or those making changes affecting 50 percent or more of existing houses, Mr. Toner said he would hope the town might appeal that limit in order to encourage more people to put in nitrogen-reducing systems rather than conventional septics. Failing that, he would like the town to require builders of those structures to use the new systems even without a rebate as East Hampton and Southampton have done.
He also wants to dispel concerns some residents might have about the bacteria used in the new systems. Bacteria doesn’t leech into the water supply, Mr. Toner said. But it is used to destroy the wastes that flow into the nitrogen-reducing systems.
To those concerned about maintenance requirements on the new systems, no matter what type of system they currently have, it should be pumped out about every five years. That helps the environment and helps to protect drinking water, he said. The new systems need yearly maintenance to check that they are continuing to work correctly, but don’t have to be pumped annually. The required maintenance on the nitrogen-reducing systems is to check bacteria levels and assure that electronics are working correctly.
Suffolk County rebates favor projects in areas where water flows into surrounding bays; Shelter Island departs ,giving equal balance to all areas, but with particular attention to those where drinking water is affected, Mr. Toner said.
Part-time residents are welcome to apply but if money becomes tight, full-time Island residents would be favored over those who might be weekenders or summer residents only.
Rebates are available for most Shelter Island homeowners who have their own private wells or are served by a water authority such as West Neck or Dering Harbor, but Shelter Island Heights residents, who have a sewer system, would not be eligible.
A hitch exists for those who have applied for Suffolk County rebates that are limited to $10,000, but would prefer the higher $15,000 local rebates. Timing is tight for those homeowners to get their applications into the county, yet if they delay and the town fails to move rapidly enough, they could end up with no source of rebates. An applicant can’t receive rebates from both the county and the municipality.
As for how to proceed if you’re interested in a local rebate, five copies of the completed application must be submitted to the clerk’s office and they should be marked ATTENTION: WQIPAB so that they are provided to the Water Quality Improvement Projects Advisory Board for review.
To apply for a town grant, permits from the Suffolk County Department of Health Services are not necessary with the initial application. Nor must applicants submit engineering details at this stage of the process.
Applicants need to submit their name, address, phone number, email address and the site location if it is different from the property owner’s address. The committee needs information on what type of cesspool or septic system is currently in use and its age and capacity if the information is known.
The committee is also asking for an engineer’s letter certifying that he or she would be retained to design and obtain permits for the new system and, if known, a description of the system that would be installed.
The Water Quality Board will review the applications and recommend rebates to the Town Board or request additional information if it’s needed. The Town Board would have to approve the rebate and the money would be set aside for when the project is complete and approved by the Suffolk County Department of Health. Documents certifying expenses would have to be provided to verify costs and assure that all conditions have been met before a check could be written to the applicant.