Water Quality Protection 

Nitrogen Footprint

The nitrogen footprint calculator is a means for each homeowner to assess how much nitrogen they are contributing to our groundwater. In using the calculator, you will see that decisions made regarding how often we fertilize our yards, how much natural vs cleared space we have, and how many people we have in our homes effects our household nitrogen footprint. In the near future, Suffolk County will be approving the use of innovative and advanced septic systems that will reduce nitrogen discharges by more than 50%, creating the potential for nitrogen footprints to be reduced even further.

Water Quality Protection What You Should Know and How You Can Help Protect Local Waters

Nearly every home in the Town of Southampton has an individual septic tank and/or cesspool. Household septic tanks and cesspools are the primary source of nitrogen to groundwater, which we drink, and surface waters within which we fish, swim, and recreate. The overloading of nitrogen has been identified as a serious problem for surface water within the Town of Southampton. Every home owner can take some responsibility for their home’s septic tank and/or cesspool.

Information provided by - Christopher J. Gobler, Ph.D.

Lawn Care
See FAQ section for helpful information on how you can help

Over fertilization of lawns can lead to contamination of groundwater, and nitrogen loading into local surface waters. It is important to know when to use or not use fertilizers and which fertilizers to use to decrease the amount of nitrogen that reaches local water ways, and help keep the groundwater safe for drinking.

General Information Regarding Septic Tanks and Cesspools

See FAQ section for helpful information on how you can help

  • Septic tanks store and degrade household waste. They are commonly used in areas where direct connections to municipal sewage pipes are unavailable.
  • Suffolk County has the largest number of septic systems in New York State and nearly all homes in the Town of Southampton have septic systems.
  • A septic tank acts to separate waste into liquids, sludge, and scum. Sludge includes the solid portion of wastes which settles to the bottom of the septic tank. Scum includes the greases in the waste and floats to the top of the tank. The septic tank is designed to allow the liquids to discharge into the subsoil for further microbial breakdown while the sludge and scum are retained in the tank. 80% of sludge will eventually decompose into liquids and gasses which will drain from the tank, while the remaining 20% will accumulate in the tank. Regular pumping of the sludge and scum is necessary to prevent them from escaping the tank and potentially clogging the drainfield.
  • Improperly maintained septic systems can leak pathogens and toxins into groundwater which endanger humans and wildlife and nutrients like nitrogen, phosphorous into waterways which can degrade surface water problems.
  • In the coming months and years, Suffolk County will begin to permit the use of innovative and alternative septic tanks for homeowners that remove significantly more nitrogen than standard cesspools and septic tanks that are in place today.
Pumping Diagram