Septic Upgrades Now A Law


Suffolk County has officially banned the installation of new cesspools, putting into effect a law that was passed by the County Legislature two years ago.

The law requires all property owners replacing a cesspool to, at a minimum, use a septic tank. The measure is yet another initiative to limit nitrogen flow to waterways and groundwater. Municipalities and the state recently enacted a number of programs designed to upgrade existing septic systems and install new-technology models for new properties.

“This regulation is one more meaningful step on a long journey to restoring water quality for our island. It is a common-sense change that will provide additional water quality protection,” said Adrienne Esposito, executive director of Citizens Campaign for the Environment.

“Cesspools have been a major contributor to water contamination for decades,” said Richard Amper, executive director of the Long Island Pine Barrens Society. “For the first time, Long Islanders are taking the steps needed to prevent nitrogen contamination from cesspools. We’re on our way to a cleaner Long Island,” he added.

State, county, and local governments are urging residents to adopt wastewater treatment technology to protect Long Island’s water. New York State and Suffolk County offer up to $30,000 for replacing cesspools and septic systems with on-site treatment technology, which covers the average cost of $19,200 to install an advanced treatment system. More information on how to apply for the free incentives available to homeowners can be found at

Shelter Island, East Hampton, and Southampton towns have their own dedicated funding source that can be added to the county and state program, bringing the total incentive up to $50,000 in certain areas. These East End towns have voted for a percentage of Community Preservation Funds — a tax on real estate transactions — to also be set aside for septic upgrades.

The Clean Water Infrastructure Act of 2017, championed by Governor Cuomo and the State Legislature, established the State Septic System Replacement Fund and allocated $75 million to support the multi-year effort.

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