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Glen Cove may step up monitoring of septic systems

Glen Cove City Councilman Anthony Gallo Jr. at

Glen Cove City Councilman Anthony Gallo Jr. at Glen Cove's Crescent Beach on May 28, 2014. Credit: Newsday / Thomas A. Ferrara

Septic systems and cesspools in Glen Cove could face increased testing and regulation, under proposed amendments to the city code that are being finalized.

Draft legislation sponsored by Mayor Reginald Spinello would require property owners to identify and have their septic systems inspected and certified for functionality and structural integrity.

The amendments would also allow city officials to enter any property to inspect and test private underground wastewater treatment systems that can include septic tanks and cesspools. Spinello said a revised draft will be ready in about a week, and the council could vote on it in late June.

"It will help us to identify properties that are a problem, like bad actors," Spinello said. Mapping the wastewater systems may also help them identify properties that the owners may not know have problems caused by rising water tables, he said.

The amendments would be part of the city's efforts to reopen Crescent Beach, which has been closed since 2009 due to the presence of fecal coliform and enterococci, bacteria found in the digestive systems of humans and animals. The source of the bacteria has not been found.

Though most of Glen Cove has sewers, 129 properties have septic systems, according to Glen Cove parks and recreation director Darcy Belyea. Most of those properties -- 85 -- are in the waterfront neighborhoods in Glen Cove known as North Country Colony and Red Spring Colony.

Belyea said the city worked with the county health department after the beach was closed to try to locate the source and discovered one septic system had failed to function.

"The one that we found that was failed in North Country Colony the homeowner had no idea, because their plumbing was working fine, there was nothing on their property, and it was leaching onto the roadway; and the health department was testing and happened to see it," Belyea said.

In order to open, the beach needs to be tested to show that it is clear of the bacteria. A proposal to monitor the water failed a vote in the City Council last month.

City Councilman Anthony Gallo Jr. voted against the proposal in part because he said he wanted to first get the septic system legislation passed. Gallo said that last year he and Spinello, who was then a City Councilman, put together a less comprehensive version of what is now being considered, but it failed to get traction under the former mayor.

"The goal is to identify the source, but it's also to deal with the bacterial levels that are in the stream and also are heading down to Crescent Beach," Gallo said. "With inspecting and certifying septic systems to make sure they're not faulty, we'll hopefully reduce that bacterial level."

Gallo said that while the long-term solution may be to build sewers in the area, an inspection regimen in the meantime may identify faulty systems.

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