Southampton has become the first village in Suffolk County to mandate low-nitrogen septic systems in some homes, officials said.
The village board voted unanimously 5-0 on Dec. 14 to require innovative and alternative on-site wastewater treatment systems in homes that are newly built or renovated on parcels near bodies of water.
The law, which takes effect March 1, aims to reduce the amount of nitrogen polluting waterways, officials said.
“This is the genesis of the East End of Long Island: People come out here to boat and swim,” Village Administrator Stephen Funsch said. “The waterways are just deteriorating at a rapid pace.”
Property owners in areas designated as high and medium priority by the Southampton Town Community Preservation Fund Water Quality Improvement Plan must install the low-nitrogen systems if they build new homes, add bedrooms or require a system upgrade.
Violations carry penalties of at least $1,000 in fines and remediation to be determined by the Suffolk County Department of Health Services, which could include installing a new septic system.
The towns of Southampton, East Hampton and Brookhaven have similar septic system requirements.
Grace Kelly-McGovern, spokeswoman for the Suffolk health department, said the agency is “not aware of any other jurisdictions that have ordered reduced nitrogen systems.”
The Southampton Village law was passed after Lake Agawam had an extended algae bloom this year, requiring people to avoid wading in it from about May to November.
Bob DeLuca, president of the Group for the East End, called the village’s new law good news, saying pollution is “killing our coastal way of life.” He said the law could lead to reduced prices for low-nitrogen systems, which typically cost about $8,000 more than traditional septic systems.
“People want to see this change, but it’s just a reality of how much money is available to people to do this at any given time,” he said.
Suffolk County, East Hampton Town and Southampton Town governments offer rebates on low-nitrogen septic systems to eligible homeowners. Southampton Village residents are eligible for the Southampton Town septic system rebates if they have an income of less than $500,000 a year.