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Suffolk County Program Offers To Replace Septic Tanks That Leak Nitrogen

HAUPPAUGE, N.Y. (CBSNewYork) -- A pilot program on Long Island seeks to help homeowners replace septic tanks that are leaking harmful nitrogen into the groundwater.

As CBS2's Andrea Grymes reported, Suffolk County is now offering to subsidize newer and much cleaner septic systems that are also much more expensive.

At Suffolk County headquarters in Hauppauge, environmentalists, labor leaders, civic groups, and elected officials gushed over what they called a transformative event.

"Today, we launch a pilot that is about retrofitting homes to save our water quality," said Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone.

Bellone has laid out a pilot plan to cut down on the excess nitrogen leaking into the groundwater from 360,000 county homes with septic systems.

The nitrogen is believed to be responsible for massive fish kills and harmful algae blooms.

Three new septic systems have already been approved by Suffolk County as replacements. The advanced systems can remove 70 percent of the nitrogen generated by home waste, but can cost up to 17,000 – double the price of current systems.

Thus, the county is offering subsidies.

"Grants will be provided by the Suffolk Septic System, up to a maximum of $11,000," Bellone said.

Bellone said homeowners can also get low-interest loans to finance the replacement of septic systems that have been in the ground for decades.

The new septic systems will be manufactured locally with a unique design that includes three separate columns of nitrogen filtration.

Suffolk County homeowner Chris Salemi has a 30-year-old cesspool buried in his backyard, and he is worried about what it could be leaking. Sameli said he is going along with the pilot program, as long as it truly does not cost much more.

"I'm all right with it," said Salemi, of Bay Shore. "It's better for my children and my future grandchildren."

Suffolk County leaders said they will start small with their septic revolution by offering grants to just 400,000 homeowners needing a replacement.

The county will start taking applications for the grants July 1, and will target areas near vulnerable bodies of water.

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