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Increased regulations coming for your hair salon?
Local law firm calls for increased regulations on wastewater.
SUFFOLK COUNTY—Officials are being urged to increase regulations on hair salons and other businesses that operate without proper wastewater permits from the Office of Wastewater Management. A local law firm, Fenley LLP, addressed a letter (dated April 8, 2019) to Suffolk County executive Steve Bellone, along with other county and Islip Town officials, regarding the matter.
“The current lack of enforcement threatens Suffolk County’s water sources,” the firm wrote in the letter, adding that certain salon-related products, such as coloring, lighteners, peroxide, tints, toners and relaxers, contain numerous chemicals that are released directly into the ground. These chemicals include but are not limited to ammonia-nitrogen, cadmium, chloroform, dimethyl phthalates, lead and sodium. “There can be little debate of the harmful environmental impacts these circumstances are causing,” the letter states.
The firm’s client, Anthony Gugliotta, is a real estate developer of homes in the Hamptons and commercial properties in the Town of Islip. One of Gugliotta’s commercial properties is a hair salon, Silk Hair Spa, located on Main Street in Sayville.
The letter recalls a reported comment made by Bellone, in 2014, where he called nitrogen “public enemy No. 1.” The letter also mentions that, on Dec. 21, 2017, Bellone signed legislation that banned the continued installation of cesspools. “That day [Bellone] said publicly: ‘Today marks another historic step forward in our ongoing effort to reverse decades of nitrogen pollution that has degraded water quality in our lakes, bays and harbors, and it is a step that is long overdue,’” the letter reads.
“While we applaud these efforts to limit nitrogen pollution, the simultaneous failure to enforce Suffolk County’s wastewater regulations acts to minimize the efforts of the new rules,” the letter continues. It also references Article 6 of the Suffolk County Sanitary Code, which cites “protection and preservation of water resources as the policy underlying the adoption of rules that among other things regulate wastewater management.”
Gugliotta and the law firm say that the OWM has developed a “robust approval process that assure[s] the proper construction of adequate water supply and sewage disposal facilities for all development.”
The letter argues that, because the OWM rules concern only new construction projects and upgrades, salons in Suffolk County are able to bypass the regulations and operate without sanitary systems designed to treat and eliminate toxic contaminants found in ordinary salon products. “The building departments in the towns have done nothing to stop these salons from operating,” the letter adds. “The lack of enforcement results in contamination of groundwater and aquifers.”
Gugliotta and his reps point out that a simple Google search shows that within a 6-mile radius of Sayville, where Silk Hair Spa is located, there are at least 90 operating salons. “It’s doubtful that the majority, if any, have been issued proper wastewater permits,” the letter says. “Those that aren’t are almost certainly discharging harmful chemicals straight into the ground.” The letter adds that these numbers, when applied to the rest of the county, mean that hundreds of salons could be operating without “adequate sanitary systems.”
The letter says that the Great South Bay and associated waterways are some of the most notable hallmarks of the Suffolk County community, noting that harming these natural resources could damage the regional economy. “We request that Suffolk County take active steps to increase enforcement of its regulations on noncompliant salons, and other businesses, that release chemicals into the ground without proper sanitary systems,” the letter reads, adding that a lack of enforcement would render other efforts, such as nitrogen reduction, “meaningless” or at least “less effective.”
Gugliotta first became interested in this issue several years a go. It was around this time that he voluntarily installed the proper wastewater system, which cost about $40,000, for his building on Main Street in Sayville, which houses the salon and numerous other businesses, including Ralph’s Italian Ices and SoBol.
Gugliotta also says he reached out to Islip Town, during Tom Croci’s time as supervisor, regarding the wastewater issue. Gugliotta notes that fire marshals carried out an investigation into the matter and didn’t find any violations, but he doesn’t feel the investigation was as thorough as it could have been. “Since [Bellone] describes himself as an environmentalist, this [issue] should be right up his alley,” Gugliotta said. “Maybe he can put pressure on the towns to enforce this.” But, being that it’s a crucial election year for numerous local posts, Gugliotta doesn’t think an issue like this one will gain much traction for some time.
Jason Fenley, Gugliotta’s representative, says he has not heard back from county officials about the requests in the letter. This publication also made multiple attempts to get a comment from the county regarding these concerns, but officials did not respond by press time.
Fenley says that while a property may be connected to a sewer, if the use changes from a retail store to a salon, the premises may not have the proper systems in place to treat the waste being produced and will continue to discharge into the sewers. “This, no doubt, will have downstream impacts on the treatment facilities,” he said. However, this issue, Fenley adds, seems to be more prevalent in communities without sewers. The waste, he says, is discharged directly into the cesspool and potentially the ground, where it is left untreated.
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