Suffolk County is tightening its regulations on cesspools and septic systems.


What Is A Septic System?

All wastewater that is produced in a home, from everything that goes down the toilet to what goes down the kitchen sink and garbage disposal to water used in the washing machine, needs to go somewhere. That’s where your septic system comes in. All of this water and waste is directed to an underground chamber located outside the home that is commonly made of either concrete, plastic, or fiberglass. It is considered a type of on-site sewage treatment system.

How Does A Septic System Work?

  • First, water filled with home cleaners and waste flow into the septic holding tank from the house.
  • Inside the tank, anaerobic bacteria begins to break down organic matter.
  • As material is broken down, fats, oil, and grease float to the surface; this is known as scum. Solids settle down to the bottom, which is known as sludge.
  • A middle layer of liquid, known as effluent, then drains from the tank and enters a drain field or leach field. This is a large underground area located away from the home.
  • Liquid wastewater exits through piping into the drain field onto a porous surface like sand or gravel.
  • Here, aerobic bacteria and soil complete the decomposition process and begin to treat the wastewater.
  • Clean water then filters into the soil and it eventually seeps down into the groundwater.

Why Do Suffolk County Residents Need to Upgrade Their Systems?

While septic tank systems can be an effective way to treat wastewater from a home, the system needs to be functioning properly. Otherwise, it can lead to serious contamination of well water and nearby bodies of water.

Contamination can occur if the drain field becomes clogged with solids or there is too much liquid for it to be able to treat it fast enough. Soil below the drain field is able to treat a variety of contaminants in the wastewater; however, if water backs up, those contaminants will remain in the water and can lead to contamination of streams, lakes, and other bodies of water. Two nutrients that are found in untreated surface water are phosphorus and nitrogen. Freshwater is more vulnerable to phosphorus pollution and saltwater is more vulnerable to nitrogen pollution.

In the Suffolk County region, there has been considerable nitrogen pollution from outdated septic and cesspool systems. The state and county have been making considerable efforts to have all commercial and residential wastewater treatment systems upgraded in order to reduce water pollution that has affected wildlife in the area.

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