Sagg Board Goes Slow on Septics

Concern about upkeep of low-nitrogen systems
The Sagaponack Village Board will be keeping track of how upgraded septic systems function in East Hampton and Southampton and whether such systems can help protect water quality at places like Sagg Pond. David E. Rattray

As East Hampton and Southampton town boards move full speed ahead to mandate the upgrading of septic systems, the Sagaponack Village Board on Monday decided that it would continue to take a go-slow approach. 

“This a very big change,” said Sagaponack Deputy Mayor Lee Foster of the move for homeowners to transition to advanced septic systems that reduce nitrogen in wastewater. “These are very much more sophisticated systems, and I want to see how well they’re working and whether there’s been any profound difficulties with maintenance. I think maintenance is going to be an issue.”

Laws passed by the town boards of East Hampton and Southampton this past summer require that nitrogen-reducing septic systems be installed at all new buildings. The boards have also incentivized home and business owners to switch over to the more environmentally friendly systems by offering a rebate — financed by money from the community preservation fund — that may cover up to the entire The increased attention on septic systems has been driven by water-quality protection efforts that seek to fight algae-producing nitrogen in groundwater and water bodies. 

Ms. Foster spoke of the specific situation of Sagaponack: “Sagg Pond has always been the only body of water that’s not tidal, that just sits there,” she said, “and the historical realities of Sagg Pond is that it’s always been brackish.”

Still, the Sagaponack board intends to keep an eye on its neighboring towns to determine if a septic upgrade will prove to be in its best interest, as well. “We’re going to revisit this, of course,” said Ms. Foster, who, along with Sagaponack Mayor Donald Louchheim, took a firsthand look at the new septic systems when they were introduced as part of Suffolk County’s pilot program. “But you have to see how well these systems are working over a period of time, and we don’t have those answers.”