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Is a nitrogen-reducing septic system right for beaches?

MARTIN BURKE First light at Wades Beach.
MARTIN BURKE First light at Wades Beach.

Although the Water Quality Improvement Projects Advisory Board has earmarked $30,000 so the town’s Public Works Department can finish work on a new bathroom at Wades Beach, there are now questions about putting a nitrogen-reducing septic system at the location.

The issue arose at the March 2 Water Quality Board meeting when members began discussing what role to play in funding a new bathroom at Crescent Beach.

Peder Larsen, who installs septic systems and attends Water Quality Board meetings on a regular basis, raised an issue of whether the so-called “I/A” systems that can take several weeks of use before coming up to speed are the best units for beach use.

Members questioned that, if the planned I/A system at Crescent Beach isn’t the answer, why should it be used at Wades Beach, subject to the same limitations on its effectiveness since it will only be used seasonally.

At Wades Beach, the tanks for the facility were installed last year and have been pumped out regularly instead of being processed through an upgraded septic system. The tanks were put in to accommodate an I/A system when money for its purchase became available.
Shelter Island is working with a consultant who is examining several options for Crescent Beach, according to Town Engineer John Cronin. The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation is also involved in assessing some of the options, Mr. Cronin said.
“The fact that some I/A systems may perform imperfectly for a time when seasonally commissioned does not negate still using them,” the engineer said. “At worse, they function like the systems now widely used until they come up to speed.”

James Eklund, who is co-chairman with Peter Grand of the Fresh Pond Neighbors Association, told his colleagues on the Water Quality Board that some testing has been done more is to come for the pond. But he said even though Fresh Pond should not be declared a bathing beach, it should be held to the same quality level as required at Crescent and Wades beaches.