Sagg Pond Watershed: Homeowners Share Their Septic System Upgrade Story

March 11, 2024

By Julia G. King

Water Quality

“I love that we have an 1879 Victorian home with a high-tech environmental system.”

Upgrading antiquated septic systems can positively impact our coastal ponds. Newer systems are an important tool for limiting nitrogen from entering ponds and reducing algal blooms. There is significant public funding available, in the form of rebates from the Town, County and State, that assist homeowners in replacing their traditional septic systems with Innovative/Alternative Systems (I/A systems).

To help homeowners navigate the process of upgrading their septic systems, Tom Varley was hired by the New York State Center for Clean Water Technology at Stony Brook University (CCWT). The Trust is funding this position using donations from the community.

I sat down with a couple who made the switch thanks to Tom’s help and would happily go through the process again.

Jamie and Daniel described the process as long, but not actually time-consuming or complicated with Tom’s guidance. Their applications were submitted in March 2023, and the work was done by October that same year. It took two months for the engineering and design to be completed. Tom reviewed their installation quote and septic system proposal. Permitting was approved right away. However, this could have been longer if additions like bathrooms had been made to their house since their last septic system was installed.

The installation only took a day and a half. The couple saw a lot of equipment moving around their property but were impressed by how well coordinated the installation was. Now they have turned their very low-tech septic system into a high-tech one that will help the Sagg Pond watershed.

Benefits Jamie and Daniel pointed out:

  • Positive environmental impact.
  • Comfort in knowing that the backyard is stable and won’t unexpectedly cave in one night (this happened to them at a rental home in Southampton with an ageing septic system).
  • Rebates cover an annual service contract for the unit for three years and the contract can rollover to new homeowners.
  • Contractors brought in additional rich topsoil to level off the backyard.

Jamie and Daniel’s helpful tips:

  • Pieces of the system could be visually intrusive, so homeowners should be mindful of where the unit is placed. Their system had two large green circles on the lawn that they chose to hide in the landscaping rather than placing it in the middle of the lawn. There is also a 2’ x 2’ x 2’ box that has an electrical line out to it. These components could be nicely hidden by bushes off to the side of the backyard.
  • Don’t worry about the potential smell of removing the old septic system. They were pleasantly surprised by the cinnamon scented detergent used to cover up the odor when the old septic system was being pumped out.
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