County Legis. and presiding officer Rob Calarco is hoping that the newly amended county grant assistance program for installing residential Innovative and Alternative Onsite Wastewater Systems (IA/OWTS) via the Septic Improvement Program will help make the transition from cesspools easier for low-to-moderate income households in the New Year.
“Our program provided a homeowner with up to $20,000, but the state requires an engineer’s stamp and that could cost another $5,000,” said Calarco. “So we expanded the grant another $5,000 for the engineering costs, which is income based, for low-to-middle income residents.”
Calarco explained the bump up.
“The state requires a licensed professional for the design, installation, and approval of the final process.” Engineering costs can tally between $2,000 to $5,000. “So the recently amended the program allows engineering costs to be covered for those whose income is up to 80 percent of the area median income. That could be up to $70,000 a year for a single homeowner, up to $130,000 a year for a family of four.
Before New York State augmented money, the county funds for the program only covered half. The state passed a bond act to fund these replacement systems and since Suffolk County was the only county in the state to start the program, we got the bulk.”
Calarco said county administration took a look at the program after a resident in the Mastic area had to do a rebuild after Superstorm Sandy.
“I think we were not ultimately able to help them, [because it was too expensive] and that sparked the amendment,” he said.
“We’re really talking about a large percentage of middle-class households, but for some, replacement costs with an IA/OWTS can be prohibitive. The whole idea is so everyone in Suffolk County can make the conversion,” Calarco said.
All new construction will require the new system starting July 2021. Brookhaven Town had already passed codes that required a new system if construction was within 500 feet of wetlands.
There’s been a slow but increasingly steady increase since the program started in 2017. “We started July 7 that year and eight were done,” said Calarco’s chief of staff Eva Greguski. “We did 50 in 2018. In 2019, there were 253 installed; in 2020, there were 357. So we’ve done 668 as of December. And 42 percent replaced existing cesspools.”