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The road to an upgraded septic system: First recipient of grant recounts the process

COURTESY PHOTO Susan Cincotta (right) receives the town’s first check from the town’s grant program for upgrading her septic system from Judy Meringer, personal secretary to Supervisor Gary Gerth.

COURTESY PHOTO
Susan Cincotta (right) receives the first check from the town’s grant program for upgrading her septic system from Judy Meringer, personal secretary to Supervisor Gary Gerth.

The first Islander to receive a check from the town for a nitrogen-reducing septic system is real estate professional Susan Cincotta for her Midway Road residence.

Ms. Cincotta has a town check for $9,663. Suffolk County approved the payment earlier, and will pay her contractor directly for installation.

Ms. Cincotta was an early applicant for both county and town grants, starting the process almost a year ago in November 2017. Total costs for the state-of-the art systems have been estimated as high as $20,000.

Although she’s has owned her house since 1989, she acknowledged she never thought about its septic system until the nitrogen-reducing systems received attention here in the past year.

“I wanted to do the responsible thing,” Ms. Cincotta said about moving forward with the paper work involved in applying for the two grants and looking into costs and selection of a designer and contractor for her project.

A homeowner can receive grants from both the county and the town with the county picking up as much as $11,000 of qualified expenses and the town paying the balance of qualified expenses that would top off the combination of grants at $20,000. The check from the town reimbursed Ms. Cincotta for the money she had paid Matt Sherman of Sherman Engineering, who determined what system would meet her needs and where it would be placed.

Peder Larsen, the contractor on the installation worked with Mr. Sherman on choosing and siting the system and then his crew installed it. He will receive a check directly from Suffolk County for his services.

“Location is everything,” Ms. Cincotta said about where the nitrogen-reducing system would be installed. In her case, installers were able to work near — but avoid harming — a magnolia tree on her property.

COURTESY PHOTO Flowers grow along side the nitrogen-reducing septic system recently completed on Susan Cincotta’s Midway Road property.

COURTESY PHOTO
Flowers grow along side the nitrogen-reducing septic system recently completed on Susan Cincotta’s Midway Road property.

Once Ms. Cincotta had selected Mr. Larsen and Mr. Sherman she learned there were many questions to be answered, forms to be filled and information to file. That included a deed for her property, proof of homeowners’ insurance, her most recent property tax bill, her certificate of occupancy and proof that there were no liens against her property.

The Community Development Corporation of Long Island — with funds from Bridgehampton National Bank, the Long Island Community Foundation and the Rauch Foundation — also will consider applications for low cost loans with no application fees or closing costs to encourage people to upgrade their septic systems.

The loans are to provide “gap” funds to finance the difference between the Suffolk County grant and the amount needed to install the replacement septic system and are limited to $10,000.

For Islanders able to use both the county and town grant programs, it’s possible they won’t need the loan program.

Among the questions for the grant programs is what kind of septic system has been in place on a property. Ms. Cincotta learned that her existing system was almost filled to capacity and had to be cleaned out before work could proceed.

The Suffolk County Department of Health Services had queries about her water supply. When was her water last tested? Did she have a filtration system, and if so, what kind? Was there any problem with salt water backwash and if so, how was it being dealt with?

In some cases, those putting in a new system may learn they need a new well to ensure it’s sufficiently distant from the septic system, in line with Suffolk County Department of Health Services requirements. It’s why the Water Quality Board has been looking at installations that could involve one system serving several houses in an area.

Another factor to consider is the town requires registrations for new systems, which may seem like a nuisance, but makes sense, Ms. Cincotta said. Registration not only ensures the town knows where the nitrogen-reducing systems are and that they are being properly maintained, but provides records of who to call in the absence of the owner when problems occur.

A year later, with check in hand and the new system installed and functioning, Ms. Cincotta said if the process seemed involved, it has all been worth it.

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