East Hampton Village this week became the first village on eastern Long Island to require more efficient wastewater treatment systems for new residential construction.
Following a January public hearing at which the only speakers expressed overwhelming support for the law, the board on Thursday, February 7, adopted the measure. Since that hearing, the board agreed to tighten the language of the new law to require that the new wastewater treatment systems also be required for renovations that expand the gross floor area of a house by more than 25 percent.
Although proponents urged the village to adopt tougher restrictions and include commercial construction as well, board members reasoned that it was better to have some version of the law on the books now and tweak it later as needed.
The board also agreed to look into providing a better way to handle wastewater from commercial buildings in the business district, including some type of centralized sewage treatment.
The law will require the installation of new treatment systems that will reduce the amount of nitrogen released to 19 milligrams per liter or less. These systems are replacing old-fashioned septic and cesspool systems, which allow much higher levels of nitrogen to seep into the groundwater or nearby surface waters. High nitrogen levels lead to harmful algae outbreaks, reduced oxygen levels, and fish kills.
The environmental group Friends of Georgica Pond cheered the board’s action. “As a village resident, I am very proud of the board for taking this critical step,” said the group’s president, Priscilla Rattazzi, in a release. “With close to 70 percent of Georgica Pond’s shoreline in the village, this new legislation will make a significant difference to the water quality of the pond, especially for future generations.”
Village board members also briefly discussed the possibility of adopting a new law that would prohibit utilities from obtaining permits to open roads within five years of a road being constructed or within three years after an existing road is repaved. Mayor Paul Rickenbach noted that the Town of North Hempstead has proposed similar legislation.
Village Administrator Rebecca Molinaro Hansen said the village has a long-term plan for repairing its roads and lets utilities know what its schedule is. The problem is utilities “are not always receptive, cooperative, or willing to delay a project,” she said.
The board agreed any legislation would have to allow exceptions for emergency repairs and for extending utilities such as gas and water to houses in the village.
Even those small projects have consequences, according to Village Highway Superintendent Scott Fithian. “Once you cut a hole in the pavement, it’s never the same,” he said.
Fithian also reminded the board that the Suffolk County Water Authority, which recently replaced a main on Egypt Lane — and repaved the road afterward — is planning to lay a new water main on Meadow Way as well as commence projects on Newtown Lane, Cooper Lane, Race Lane, Gingerbread Lane, and Church Lane.
Board members also briefly discussed a proposal to join East Hampton Town in banning the intentional release of balloons. Besides leaving behind unsightly litter when they deflate and fall to earth, balloons are often mistaken for food and can kill or sicken sea animals.
Steve Ringel, the executive of the East Hampton Chamber of Commerce, told the board his organization is planning its third annual street fair for Saturday, May 11.