Sewage can often be a dirty word, and one many people do not necessarily want to consider. However, thanks to efforts by the Village of Sea Cliff and Nassau County Legislator Delia DeRiggi-Whitton, residents and business owners who link up to the new sewage line will be reimbursed as much as $7,500 for their efforts to contribute to municipal sanitation.
Sea Cliff’s village government has been attempting to fix the issue of how residents get rid of their waste since roughly 2003. Across the past 19 years, and five village administrations, efforts have been made in fits and starts to update Sea Cliff’s waste disposal system.
Many Sea Cliff residents traditionally relied on cesspits located outside or underneath their homes and businesses to deal with the waste. However, this method is not only impractical in the long-term, as cesspits require semi-constant cleaning and emptying, but it can also have serious negative environmental impacts, including leaking into the soil and water which can pollute different biomes.
“Adding sewers is really the number one request for a lot of environmentalists, so to replace septic systems with them is really essential, especially since so many of them are antiquated,” DeRiggi-Whitton explained in an interview. “It helps businesses, it helps homeowners, and environmentally, the fact that it’s kind of a watershed area and we sit on top of our drinking water are both big reasons to want to have sewage.”
In June of last year, Sea Cliff finally managed to extend their sewage lines to cover roughly 300 homes and businesses in the community that previously had to rely on cesspits. With 8,310 linear feet of new sewer line running along portions of Prospect, Maple and numerous other avenues, residents were given the opportunity to ditch their old cesspits and connect to the village’s sewage line.
But residents still had to pay out of pocket to switch their homes and businesses over to the new sewage lines. With the cost of doing so ranging from $2,000 to $8,000, many found the price of the switch prohibitive. To help alleviate the issue, DeRiggi-Whitton has arranged for roughly $1.7 million from the American Rescue Plan Act to be diverted to help offset the costs for home and business owners.
Although the money from ARPA was primarily designated to help struggling families and businesses at the height of the Covid-19 pandemic, local governments are also allowed to use the funds to alleviate the costs of water, wastewater and storm water infrastructure projects. This project falls under that umbrella, and last year DeRiggi-Whitton was even able to get roughly $4 million of ARPA funds to help offset the cost of the sewage line installation itself.
Although the money will not be available until Nassau County’s attorney’s office signs off on the deal, village administrator Bruce Kennedy claims that these new funds will go a long way to encouraging residents to make the switch from their old cesspits. He also made the point that the new system will be far more environmentally friendly and cost-effective in the long run for both residents and Sea Cliff itself.
“The cost of connecting to the sewer line is now going to be considerably less than putting it into a cesspool,” Kennedy asserted in an interview. “Rather than maintaining it on your own property, the sewage actually leaves your property and goes to a treatment plant where it can be properly treated and turned into clean water that can be returned to the harbor.”
Elena Villafane, Sea Cliff’s mayor, said this new project owes much of its creation to DeRiggi Whitton and other county elected leaders who heard about the issues that the village’s residents were facing regarding sewage and moved to act, regardless of political affiliation.
“This is really Legislator DeRiggi-Whitton once again coming through for the village by helping to facilitate this, with the approval of County Executive Blakeman,” Villafane claimed. “So, this is a project that has been embraced by both sides of the political aisle because it really is so important for the health of our harbor and our water source overall.”