School board gets report on septic proposal

Members of the Board of Education got their first comprehensive report this month on what it could take to install a new septic system. The proposal outlines what the school district needs permanently, and not just temporarily, to take care of a problem the district is mandated to fix by the Suffolk County Department of Health Services.

Chris Desmond, division manager for structural engineering for Woodbury’s D&B Engineers & Architects, outlined an estimated $200,000 project that would not only replace the one septic system that must be replaced, but treat wastes from all three septic systems currently serving the building.

The school is mandated to replace a system on the north side of the school along Route 114 that was installed in 1925. A second septic system was installed in 1950 when the district expanded the building, and a third was installed in 1992 when a further addition to the building was constructed.

Although the two latter systems are still functioning, the Board of Education agreed with Superintendent Brian Doelger, Ed.D., that it made sense to do a single project that would cover the entire building at the estimated cost of $200,000. The cost of a secondary treatment system could add about $50,000, Mr. Desmond said, but promised to provide more exact figures.

Chris Desmond, division manager for structural engineering for D&B Engineers & Architects, last week outlined a proposal for a septic system to provide coverage for the entire school building. (Credit: Julie Lane)

The board would be seeking grant funding for what members consider a pilot project, since it could potentially make use of an Orenco septic system not yet approved by the county. Much of the county’s attention has been on systems for residential use, while this would represent commercial use at a building that generates much waste because of the number of people who use the building day to day, most of the year. 

Mr. Desmond said the school generates a little more than 3,000 gallons of septics per day that would need to be treated to lower nitrogen content.

Before the Board is ready to green light a project, members asked Mr. Desmond to return with some comparable systems and their potential cost.

If only partial funding or no funding could be provided from grants, the board would likely seek voter approval for a short-term bond to help finance a project.

Original plans called for including the school in a wider Center-area proposal developed by Town Engineer John Cronin. That proposal was to include the school, the Town Hall complex, Police Department, Justice Court, the Shelter Island Library and Shelter Island Fire Department. But the Board of Education ultimately opted to go it alone, believing, according to Mr. Doelger, that the cost would end up being less than what it would cost to join in the wider effort.