Protecting & Restoring Long Island's Peconic Bays

I upgraded my septic system! Part III: The Clean-up

This four-part blog chronicles the experience of one participant in the Suffolk County Septic Demonstration Program for Advanced/Alternative On-site Wastewater Disposal Systems.

By Sherryll Huber Jones, North Fork Resident


End of February 2017…

Radio silence on any follow up visits to my house. Emailed the County with my concerns and photos on the items that still need to be addressed 1) the replacement of three 1’x2’ bluestone slates in my walkway 2) Replace the irrigation line from the side of the house to the vegetable garden 3) reseed the yard with grass. Was met with a quick acknowledgement of the email and a response to “work with all parties to address your comments”.


Fast forward to the end of March….

I’m not happy. I understand there has been snow on the ground or a fresh layer of the white stuff since the blizzard during the install in February. But the snow melt combined with the early spring rain has rendered my yard a pond of mud and muddy water that is being tracked through my house, into my car, etc. I also understand these are not ideal conditions to replant grass, but it has been TWO MONTHS now, my yard looks like hell, and I haven’t heard Boo from any of the involved parties. I shouldn’t have to settle with the acceptance of “hey, at least my toilet flushes” when I was promised that everything would be returned to its original state.

And they haven’t forgotten about me because every few weeks I will come home and find two large water sampling units in my yard that run for 24 hours through bright orange extension cords that are plugged into my electrical outlets. So somebody is here and can see all of the mud.








After a number of phone calls to and from both Suffolk County Department of Health Services (SCDHS) and the excavator AND a surprise, pop-in visit to the program manager in his Yaphank office, I am being promised an immediate revisit to my property for a regrade and grass seeding. I was asked to be home to ensure all of my concerns were addressed- which is not happening. I’ve already taken off two days from work for this project- thankfully I have a job that is in support of Long Island environmental issues- because seriously, who can afford to take off three days of work for something that has experts in the field carefully orchestrating all of the moving parts?

Thursday, April 13, 2017

Nine weeks later: The cleanup is complete. The County program manager acted as my proxy to ensure all of my complaints were addressed. And sent me an email with pictures. I am relieved but still cautiously concerned. I am one of the good-guys; the few who are fighting for the paradigm shift in rethinking about our nutrient and polluting footprint on Long Island and I was left feeling frustrated by this process.

This is set to be a multi-year endeavor for the purpose of approving more types of nitrogen-reducing technologies for use on the East End. Without the ability to sewer huge areas of the rural and agricultural areas of the island (those with the most coastal surface area to our surrounding bays, I might add), changing the way our wastewater is managed is the only solution. Making this solution affordable to the average homeowner is a whole other conversation. As there appears to be no end in sight for continued development in the popular coastal communities of the north and south forks of Long Island, we need to support the processes taking shape and to feed the momentum of a nitrogen reducing, clean water movement particularly in Suffolk County. Our agencies are short staffed and under resourced, but there are those who work incredibly hard to protect the places we work, we live, we depend on… the places we call home.

Stay tuned for Part IV: EcoFlo in Action…

Editor’s Note: The Demonstration phase of this program, described here, has concluded.  The new phase of Suffolk County’s Reclaim Our Water initiative is the Septic Improvement Program, a grant and loan program to assist homeowners who wish to upgrade their cesspools and septic systems. This website provides information for both homeowners and industry professionals and also includes updates on advanced/alternative on-site wastewater treatment technologies, new and proposed code changes, and other wastewater improvements being made throughout the county.

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