In an effort to help business owners in Southampton Village and revitalize Lake Agawam at the same time, village officials are moving forward with plans for a sewer system that they say would allow growth in the downtown area while improving groundwater quality.
Earlier this month, representatives from H2M Architects of Melville presented a preliminary five year plan for installing the system. The presentation, while it provided a basic description of several types of potential sewer systems, served more to give a range of pricing options and a timeline of what would have to be accomplished.
The village has already taken the first step in creating a sewer district encompassing the entire village, and has allocated approximately $100,000 in next year’s budget to hire a consultant to create a more in-depth plan tailored specifically to the village’s needs. The consultant will also help the municipality with grant applications and state aid.
“We understand what it is like to work for a village,” said Frank Russo of H2M during his presentation. “We get it.”
According to Mr. Russo, the village has several options for a system, ranging in price from $25 million to $30 million, most of which is expected to be funded through grants.
Currently, village properties almost universally use septic systems, which hold waste in underground tanks and allow the wastewater to leach directly into the ground. Many of the systems are outdated and in need of upgrades.
It is unclear at this time how much it will cost property owners to connect to a new sewer system once it is in place. According to village officials, it is possible that there will be a fee to hook into the system, but it is too early in the process to determine what that fee will be. Meanwhile, the village is looking at alternatives to limit the financial impact on property owners.
Possible systems include a hybrid sewer system used in conjunction with Southampton Hospital, a low-pressure sewer system, and a gravity sewer system. While all three options were discussed, the one most explored is the low-pressure system, which would have a narrow sewage pipe leading from each business to a larger pipe laid under the parking lot behind Main Street. Waste would flow through the pipe to a water treatment facility behind the Village Police headquarters on Windmill Lane, where the water would be treated before being filtered into a leaching station. The cleaned water would then be allowed to slowly seep into the ground, where it would go through natural purification processes before making its way to Lake Agawam.
The Windmill Lane facility would be a small building in the wooded area behind the Police Department. Most equipment would be located underground and go unnoticed. Modern technology will keep most odors contained, according to Mr. Russo. “There will only be the occasional burp to the system,” he said.
The two main goals for the project, according to Village Mayor Mark Epley, are to save Lake Agawam and completely revitalize the business district in Southampton. A lot of the problems with water quality at Lake Agawam stem from the septic systems on Main Street and Jobs Lane, where nitrogen is seeping into the ground and into the lake. The nitrogen is destroying the water quality and ecosystem of the lake, village officials have said.
The other goal is to lay the groundwork to revamp and pump more life into the business district. In the 1970s, Mr. Epley said, there were more than 120 apartments above stores and businesses on Jobs Lane and Main Street, but now there are approximately 20. Currently, the village cannot allow building owners to re-convert second floors into living spaces, because it would put too much stress on the septic systems. A new sewer system would make it possible to create apartments, creating affordable housing for younger people who have been forced to leave the village in the past, the mayor said.
“It is the next phase of our revitalization project,” Mr. Epley said this week. “We took the village business district and we studied it and developed a long-term plan and updated the master plan. The next step is the waste management, which is, I think, important, because to do it we will have to disrupt some of the infrastructure in the village, but it will give the opportunity to rebuild parking lots and do things that are important.”
Based on current projections, the village aims to have the project completed by 2019. The first steps will be to retain an engineer and to finalize the maps and plans for the project. H2M recommends starting State Environmental Quality Review Act proceedings early next year.
In 2016, the village will approve a design report with detailed instructions for the proposals and work attaining grant funding. For 2017, the main goal will be finalizing the plans and getting final approval from the state and county. In 2018, the village would be able to put the project out to bid and pick a contractor, with construction starting later that year.
The work is projected to be completed in 2019, with initial use and training going into 2020.