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4/5/2005 - LILWA Attends NYWEA Meeting
Previous Seth Poole Questions
Block Construction Cesspool Hazards
Judge Coleman Reviews Newsday Article (11/15/04 - Dan Fagin, Newsday Staff Writer) Re: Grease Disposal
Text of copyrighted Newsday Article by Gary Dymski (12/30/04) Re: Septic Systems in Suffolk County, NY
Gov. Schwarzenegger Vetoes Bill Aimed At Regulating Grease Disposal in California
Riverhead and East Hampton Sewage Treatment Plant Managers Speak at LILWA BOD Meeting 2/8/05
How to Choose A Septic System Service Company by Doug Wholey, LILWA VP
Galbraith Interviewed on News 12
Suffolk County Adresses Septic System Safety At LILWA Board Meeting - 11/05
Southampton Press Article About The Dangers of "Block" Cesspools
Glen Cove Accepts Nassau/Suffolk Septage
Judge Coleman Resigns LILWA Presidency
LILWA Elects A New President: Meet Tom Gallagher
Bergen Point Construction Causing Traffic Problems
Collapsing "Block Construction" Cesspool Claims A Life In Suffolk County - 6/12/2007
The Hidden Danger on Long Island (reprinted by permission of American Liquid Waste Magazine)
LILWA Certification - Benchmark of Quality - 10/08
LILWA Wants You! - The Benefits Of Membership
Senior Citizen Rescued From Cesspool 11/29/2009

April 5, 2005 - LILWA Attends NYWEA Meeting
County Executive, Steve Levy, at the
April 12th, 2005 Meeting of the NYWEA.
At the New York Water Environment Association (NYWEA) meeting in Smithtown, on April 12th, LILWA representatives got to rub elbows with the movers and shakers of the environmental establishment. The NYWEA is non-profit, educational organization made up of engineers, scientists, treatment plant operators, state and local government officials, members of various industries, educators and just about anybody else involved with environmental issues, especially where water is concerned. Their stated mission is to protect and enhance our water resources.

he main speaker was Suffolk County Executive, Steve Levy, who laid out a long list of his administration's accomplishments and planned programs to improve the quality of life in the county by striking a balance between economic growth and environmental concerns. Among his major points, Mr. Levy spoke of the county's programs to acquire, set aside and preserve undeveloped land, as well as to reclaim and rehabilitate many of the county's abandoned properties. He spoke of plans to revitalize the shellfish industries in the Great South and Peconic Bays and the fight to stop the State of Connecticut from dumping pollutants into the Long Island Sound.

ILWA applauds all of these initiatives, but our main purpose in being there was to see where the county stood regarding the ongoing grease problem. For too long, county officials seemed to be unwilling to face this explosive issue and for the first half hour of his talk, it appeared that Mr. Levy's administration was offering more of the same.

However, we were pleasantly surprised and greatly encouraged when, at last, Levy, addressed the issue, head on. In a brief but encouraging statement, he explained that the county was looking into the possibility of licensing a privately funded grease processing facility to be built on public land as well as millions of dollars of upgrades to the existing water treatment plants. He also announced his intention to fill the vacancies on the Septic Advisory Board. If we have any criticism at all, it would be that Mr. Levy did not mention a time frame for these improvements. However, it's clear that he has done his homework on the issue and has a clear understanding that corrective action is required.

Summer is fast approaching and the population of Eastern Long Island will swell to critical mass. The end result will be that thousands of tons of additional fats, grease and oils (FOG) will find it's way into area septic systems and for now, we have no practical way to deal with it. We are still faced with having to scramble to find treatment plants willing to take our waste grease and with rising fuel costs, trucking the material off the island to facilities and as far away as the Canadian border is obviously not the answer. But it would appear that we finally have a competent and energetic administration that is willing to take on the heavy lifting and our own organization must be ready and willing to work with them.

July, 2004
Dear Seth:
I am a homeowner who has had my cesspool pumped frequently over the past couple of years. My neighbor asked if I have ever had aeration done to the cesspool. What exactly is aeration and will it help my cesspool drain more efficiently?

Dan M.
East Quogue, NY

Dear Dan:

Aeration is the process of using reverse air pressure from the pumper truck through a PVC pipe to effectively disturb the bottom of the cesspool. The force of the air when funneled though the pipe ?blasts? the soil creating holes which penetrate though the layer in which solids and sludge have accumulated. The best possible scenario is when the aeration process allows the technician to tap into a layer of clean sand below the cesspool to allow for drainage. The aeration process can be combined with chemical treatment to provide a "one-two" punch in which the results can be very successful. Aeration while it may sound like the miracle cure for your cesspool depends on several factors in order to be successful.

1.Cesspool Construction - the cesspool must be constructed of precast cement. If the cesspool onsite is constructed of block and/or red brick (for all homes constructed prior to 1973), then the aeration process is not recommended. The force of the pressure into the bottom of the cesspool can damage the walls of the cesspool leading to a possible collapse.

2. Groundwater – The bottom of the cesspool must be at least 2 feet above groundwater to allow for drainage. If the system onsite is one designed in order to accommodate for areas of high water tables, aeration will not be applicable.

3. Water Usage – If the amount of water being introduced into the septic system outweighs the expected capacity of the system then consideration should be made to increase the capacity of the system to meet the water demands of the residence.

Dan, my recommendation would be to contact your service contractor and discuss exactly what type of cesspool is currently being serviced and how aeration and/or chemical treatment may or may not improve your wastewater drainage. The servicing technician should be able to cover the issues listed above and provide you with insight as how your septic system will react to the aeration process. - Seth

Septempber 1, 2004

Dear Seth:

I was a guest at an outdoor diner party that was attended by some 300 people. It would have been a spectacular evening except that the hosts made 2 fatal errors. They did not hire temporary lavatories, and secondly, they opened their home and allowed the guests to use their indoor facilities without having the septic system checked and serviced prior to the event. The home does have 8 bathrooms but the system evidently just couldn't handle additional usage. It became overloaded, everything backed up and all the commodes and drains overflowed. The party was over. IT WAS A DISASTER!!!

When the first sign of trouble occurred, one of the guests asked our host when was the last time that she had her septic system serviced. Her answer was, "I have a septic system"? To make matters worse, when help arrived, they had to spend a good deal of time finding the septic tank and cesspool because she could offer no help as to their locations.

In any case, I know that on the eastern end of Long Island, most of our homes have individual septic systems, but I have no clue where mine is located. Can you tell me how I can find the septic system on my property? I want to be prepared so I can avoid anything even close to an incident like this.

Mrs. Genevieve B.
East Hampton, New York

Dear Genevieve,

The following should help you avoid disater:

1. If your residence was constructed after 1974, your home survey may have the location of the septic system. If you cant find the survey, check with you local building department, it should be on file. If built before the above date, see #3 & #4

2. If you have a basement, find the point where the plumbing exits the house and if possible, note the direction in which it travels. This is the main waste line and it should lead you in the direction of the septic tank. In some cases you may find a cast iron or concrete (manhole) cover between 10 to 20 feet from your house. This is probably the location of your septic tank.

3. If no covers are visible or your house was built on a slab (no basement) call your local, certified septic mechanic. In most cases they can locate the septic tank by educated guesses and using special, metal probes.

4. When probing is not successful, your serviceman usually has a number of high-tech weapons at his disposal. An electronic "pellet" that emits a radio signal can be flushed down a toilet and the technician can follow the signal, electronically, to the septic tank or to a blockage in the line. Once the blockage is freed, the pellet can continue its journey and the signal can be tracked to the septic tank or cesspool. In other cases, a closed circuit digital camera is introduced into the line and the technician can then view exactly where the system elements are as well as the condition of the main sewer line.

It is extremely important that every homeowner is aware of the location of their septic system as well as what materials should not be flushed.

Lastly, (and I always stress this) a certified technician should service the system every three to five years. This will help to prevent the nightmare your friend experienced.


August 30, 2004

Dear Seth,

I recently had quite a few guests at my home and the septic system became overloaded and backed up. The serviceman that pumped the septic tank told me that the back-up was caused by an excessive amount of toilet paper the system. Is there any toilet paper which is better than others with respect to preventing this from happening again?

Bill D.
Ridge, NY

Dear Bill,

This is an excellent question!

The two factors we need to look at in order to prevent this from happening again are the type and the volume of paper being introduced into your septic system.

Bill, when it comes to toilet paper, many Americans have gotten soft. The problem is that the 'super soft' type of tissue both absorbs more water and takes much longer to break down than products on the market. 'Softer' papers, therefore, accumulate faster inside the septic tank and can cause the home to back up by restricting the flow between the inflow pipe and the baffle wall (see diagram below). I suggest you switch to a thinner 1 or 2 ply type tissue. Thinner type paper, in contrast, absorbs less water and breaks down faster allowing flow through the tank with less accumulated build up. I would recommend finding a product that does not resemble a quilted pillow. They are usually much less expensive, too.

Secondly, Bill, you must examine the volume of paper currently being used at your home. If the members of your household are accustomed to disposing of large volumes of toilet paper, tissues, paper towels, feminine paper products etc. into the toilet then you must encourage them to change their habits, immediately. Tissues, hand towels, baby wipes, and cleaning towels should all be disposed of in the garbage can. Out of town guests who live in homes that are served by municipal sewer systems, may not be aware of the nightmare that a handful of paper towels can cause in your home. They should be informed that the commode is not a wastebasket. While this may seem like a delicate subject, your guests need to realize that your plumbing and septic system may operate a bit differently than in their own homes, especially if they are with you for an extended stay. Simply put, a word of instruction can eliminate the nightmare and embarrassment of a backed up septic system.

Lastly, keep in mind Bill that the septic tank on your property will provide years of use so long as it is maintained properly. Ask your service contractor for the recommended pumping frequency to insure that the buildup in the tank is not excessive, and most importantly, the cesspool (leaching pit) does not become clogged. Having the tank pumped once every 3 to 5 years for a normal household residence is usually sufficient to avoid most problems.. Your service contractor would be the best person to ask based on both the size of your home and your usage requirements.

Common Household Septic tank

Old Style "Block Construction" Cesspools Present Significant Safety Hazards
Are you a Long Island resident living in a home constructed prior to 1973? If you are, then as a homeowner you need to be aware of the reality that your septic system can collapse. The event of a collapsing septic system can be slow and methodical, or fast and violent. Either process is potentially dangerous to you and your family.

Long Island homes constructed prior to 1973 have septic systems comprised of one or more cesspools. Cesspools, also known as seepage pits, or leaching pits, are large man-made caverns below the earth's surface in which waste water generated from the household drains into the soil. Prior to 1973, the standard materials for constructing cesspools were red brick, cement block, or sometimes a combination of both. Large holes were excavated in which the blocks and/or brick were installed creating open bottom cylinders with an arched dome. The soil was then backfilled and graded completing the standard septic system of that time. Cesspools during this era have provided years of drainage for homeowners yet the question remains, "How long will the cesspools last?" Years of continual drainage, servicing, and natural elements cause deterioration within the cesspool and thus weaken its structural integrity. As the cesspool's walls or domes weaken they eventually give way to gravity allowing the surrounding earth next to and above the cesspool to give way and collapse.

The collapse of a cesspool can be either slow or fast depending on the conditions both within and surrounding the cesspool. Slowly collapsing cesspools often result when one or more blocks/bricks have given way and have fallen inside the cesspool. Commonly, the collapse is evidenced on the surface starting with a small sinkhole. The sinkhole starts small (less than a foot deep) and becomes larger and deeper until eventually the cesspool gives way and caves in upon itself. These areas of depression are very dangerous and should never be approached by a homeowner. If you notice an area of depression or sinkhole in or around the septic system notify a licensed septic contractor immediately for further investigation. Conversely, the rapidly collapsing cesspool is also the most dangerous. Rapid collapses result when the entire cesspool gives way simultaneously taking in all soil and matter around and above it. Rapidly collapsing cesspools are typically caused by excessively saturated soils resulting from heavy rain, snow, and the first thaw at winter's end. Block cesspools can also collapse after being serviced. The absence of the outward pressure from within the cesspool can allow for the walls to cave in. Licensed septic contractors inform homeowners of these conditions after services are provided. Homeowner's should take precaution to avoid standing above or near the cesspools, as they are particularly volatile during these periods. The result of a rapidly collapsed cesspool is an open crater requiring immediate replacement. Contact a licensed septic contractor or installer immediately for inspection.

The Long Island Liquid Waste Association would like to advise homeowners of the following guidelines to avoid the perils of a collapsing block cesspool:

1.Know where your septic system is located. Be aware of the area in which all cesspools are located on your property.

2.Take care not to drive or park cars or heavy machinery in or around vicinity of septic system. Heavy weight above or around the cesspool can cause a collapse.

3.Avoid using areas directly above cesspools as common areas of usage (i.e. picnic tables, children's play areas, etc.)

4.Take notice to any occurrences such as settlement or sinkholes. These are common symptoms indicating a possible collapse. Contact a licensed septic contractor immediately for further investigation.

5.Make every effort to avoid the area of the existing septic system after times of heavy rain, snow, or the first thaw at winter's end. Saturated soils are often the most common periods of cesspool collapse. Block cesspool should also be avoided if they are pumped out. A block cesspool can collapse in the absence of outward pressure within the cesspool. Licensed septic contractors advise homeowners of this potential danger when block cesspools serviced.

6.Consider replacing the block cesspools as soon as possible. Replacing the block cesspools on your property is the only way to eliminate the danger of a collapsing block cesspool

The Long Island Liquid Waste Association recommends that all homeowners currently residing in homes with block cesspools replace them as soon as possible. Modern septic systems are constructed of precast cement are not susceptible to collapse. Replacement is the only guarantee that the block cesspools will not collapse. However, until the septic system can be replaced, homeowners that know and understand the above warning signs and precautions can live a safer existence with block cesspools beneath their properties.

For further information please contact:

-The Long Island Liquid Waste Assoc.- president@
The Suffolk County Department of Health - 631-852-2100
-Your respective Town or Village Building Department


On Sunday, November 15th, 2004, Long Island Newsday ran a thousand word article about the grease disposal problem in Suffolk County. The piece, by Staff Writer, Dan Fagin, was essen- tially an outline of many of the issues swirling about this very complicated situation. However, it did not delve into, or even touch on all the important points. Having said that, we should understand that anything that raises public awareness of a serious problem benefits all of us who live and operate businesses on Long Island.

The reaction I'm getting from the membership is mixed. Some think that the article was fair in it's presentation of the facts and the opinions of various LILWA representatives, member companies, county officials and other interested parties, while others felt that the public's perception was likely to be that many, if not most, cesspool service companies engage in illegal dumping and that the industry, in general, had been given a black eye.

My own feeling is that we have big shoulders and as long we're not involved in any wrongdoing, we can stand the scrutiny. It's time that the public was made aware of this very serious problem and the sooner people understand the consequences, the sooner industry and government will begin working together, in earnest, to solve it. I applaud Mr. Fagin and Newsday for shedding some much-needed light on the grease problem

FROM NEWSDAY_Article by Gary Dymski © Copyright 2004 by Newsday

December 30, 2004

About 10 days before Thanksgiving I made one of those phone calls so important for a homeowner. It was to my septic tank guy. No, my system had not backed up. I was thinking ahead.

A few days before my timely phone call, two neighbors ended up ankle deep in septic-tank backup. Their phone calls were made when the problem was, let's say, visible. That predicament was enough warning. I believe in preventive maintenance.

More of us need to think the same way.

While liquid waste disposal is not a problem in Nassau County, it is a growing concern in Suffolk. There, new-home construction countywide has averaged nearly 3,000 annually the past two to three years, and is expected to increase slightly in 2005, according to the Long Island Builders Institute. The number of new homes, most of which discharge liquid household waste into septic systems, is putting added pressure on the county's primary disposal site, Bergen Point Sewage Treatment Plant in West Babylon.

Contractors who pump out septic systems say the disposal site often reaches capacity early in the day and so must close. Over the next several years, as more new homes are built and more tanks need to be pumped, these same contractors fear Bergen Point won't be able to handle the demand. Treatment plants in Southampton and Riverhead accept septic waste, but are not as centrally located. "Haulers prefer Bergen Point because of its location and it is less expensive," said Judge Coleman, president of the Long Island Liquid Waste Association. Town disposal sites, such as those in Huntington and East Hampton, take waste only from residents' homes, so contractors say they have few options.

"It's getting harder and harder to dump the waste," said Michael Deering, Suffolk County director of environmental affairs. "Facilities that will accept the waste are reaching capacity and not staying open as long."

Long lines and increased disposal fees (beginning Jan. 1) are putting pressure on contractors. "This year the lines were so long at Bergen Point, and on many days the place closed in the middle of the afternoon," said Foster Rignola of Rignola Cesspool Service in East Hampton. "You'd have to come back early the next morning to empty your truck."

Some contractors don't bother to return. There have been instances of haulers depositing waste illegally into storm drains or septic systems of large shopping centers. "Some truck is emptying its contents and who in a shopping mall is going to ask questions?" said Ernie Busch of Busch Bros. Cesspool, Sewer & Drain in North Amityville.

Suffolk is choosing a consultant to study the proposed building of a privately owned disposal facility on county-owned land, Deering said. But waste haulers figure completion of such a facility is years away. "Five years for the study, five more for the contract and then five more to build it," said Frank Aparo of Aparo Sanitary & Environmental Services in Bay Shore. "With all the people on Long Island and to have one main disposal site, that's crazy."

Nearly 75 percent of Suffolk County homes are hooked up to septic systems. These underground systems dispose of liquid waste - from sinks, washing machines and toilets - by dispersing it through the soil. A main tank separates the waste into three layers, solid, clear effluent and scum. As the main tank fills, the clear effluent middle layer is pushed into one or two seepage pits.

In Nassau County, where annual new home construction has averaged about 950 during the past two to three years, there isn't the same septic tank worry; about 90 percent of Nassau homes dispose of liquid waste through sewer systems.

Long Island Liquid Waste Association members want Suffolk to make disposal concerns a priority. Deering said disposal is an issue but believes there is time. The county is looking at hooking up more homes to sewers and even using "graywater" for landscape irrigation of public buildings, including golf courses. Graywater is residential discharge water, excluding waste from toilets, that can be reused for other purposes, especially landscape irrigation.

"There are issues regarding health when reusing graywater," Deering said, "and we are studying whether some of these things can be done safely."

Waste-hauling contractors just want things to move quickly. "If something is not done, then it becomes an environmental issue," Coleman said. "In our opinion, we needed another disposal site five years ago."

Find out more

For more information on septic system maintenance, visit the Long Island Liquid Waste Association Web site, The site lists several services, including companies that pump tanks and install new systems. Online information also is available at the Small Flows Clearinghouse, /nsfc, a federally funded project of West Virginia University.

One sure way to keep your system operating smoothly is to have the tank pumped regularly. Generally speaking, this should be done every two to three years. However, if you have an old "block" system, built prior to 1973, excessive pumping can cause the system to collapse.

If you aren't knowledgeable about your system, call a contractor to help you locate it and recommend service.

California's Slippery Slope

California Governor, Arnold Schwarzenegger, recently vetoed a bill that would have given the state greater powers to regulate it's waste haulers. Specifically, the bill would have tightened restrictions on the disposal of commercial kitchen grease and allowed the state's Agriculture Department to sanction haulers with a history of environmental violations. It would also have mandated that haulers be bonded or insured to guarantee the availability of funds for cleaning up spills.

Another provision of the bill would have established a detailed shipping manifest system that would track waste grease, through each step of the process, from it's point of origin to the disposal facility. A proposed manifest program for Long Island has been endorsed by LILWA, and the Association views Schwarzenegger's veto as a significant set back for the establishment of responsible grease disposal policies in the U.S.

PrimarySource: Pumper Magazine (Nov 2004)

Board Meeting Features Suffolk Treatment Plant Repsresentatives
At the East End Board Meeting on February 8th, 2005, representatives from the Riverhead and East Hampton sewage treatment plants gave detailed and informative presentations regarding the operation and policies of their respective facilities .

Up first was Michael Reichel, Superintendent of the Riverhead Sewer District who ran down the particlars of the Riverhead operation, stressing the point that the plant is actively seeking new business and now accepts sewage from anywhere in Suffolk County. Reichel explained that dump fees are somewhat higher at his plant than at Bergen Point because the facility receives no financial assistance from the county.

The Riverhead plant however, does not operate at capacity and therefore does not shut down early as does the County run facility. As a result, Riverhead can function as a viable alternative to Bergen Point with it's short hours of operation. East End carters can also save time and fuel by using the Riverhead Plant.

Michael O'Brien, Dan Ryan and Fred Nero represented Severn/Trent, a U.K. based company that operates the treatment plant in East Hampton under contract to the town. A relatively small capacity facility, they only accept wastewater from East Hampton generators.

Mr. O'Brien was the main speaker during an informative Power Point presentation that outlined the procedures at their plant. After the presentation, the group fielded questions from

Michael Reichel
the membership. One of those questions touched on the subject of commercial grease which the East Hampton plant does accept, although they do so reluctantly.

Riverhead, on the other hand, will not accept the material and grease continues to be an unresolved problem in Suffolk County. This organization is continuing it's efforts to raise public awareness about the problem but we seem to be a very lonely voice in the wilderness.

Michael O'Brien

Choosing A Septic System Service Company by Doug Wholey, LILWA Vice President
Without prior experience or at least some basic knowledge about septic systems, it's often not an easy task to know which companies will provide quality service and fair pricing. In order to help consumers find companies that are competent, professional and reliable, we have put together a list of points to consider when contracting for service.

Licensing - Service companies operating in Suffolk County are required to have both a Suffolk County Consumer Affairs License and a Suffolk County Scavenger Waste License. In Nassau County, service companies must have a Nassau Consumer Affairs license a valid permit to use the county's sewage treatment plant in East Rockaway. Companies serving Sea Cliff must also have a special permit issued by the Village of Sea Cliff. Ask your service provider to provide you with the numbers of all the appropriate licenses and permits for your area to ensure that the company is operating and dumping septic waste legally. You might also want to call the Nassau or Suffolk County Consumer Affairs offices and/or the Better Business Bureau to make sure no claims have been filed against the contractor you are considering.

Insurance - As with any contractor working on your property, it is of utmost importance that the septic system service company carries adequate liability insurance and workmen's compensation insurance. You can protect yourself by asking to see insurance certificates.

Trade Certification - To ensure that your contractor has the experience and knowledge to solve your problem, ask if he has been certified by a recognized trade organization such as LILWA.

Questions - Feel free to ask any questions you may have regarding a company's credentials or the service you may need or about septic systems, in general. A reputable contractor will gladly discuss your system and the specifics of your job. They may also have printed materials they can send you prior to the service call. If a company will not take the time to answer your questions, you might want to look into finding another that will. You can use information contained in this site to help you formulate your questions.

Prices - While it is not usually possible for a contractor to give you an exact price prior to performing the service, a reputable contractor will clearly define their pricing structure with you beforehand. When the job is complete, the service provider should provide a written the breakdown for the cost of the services he provided and a request a signature indicating your acceptance. Be wary of companies that advertise extremely low prices compared to other companies. If the price seems 'too good to be true', chances are that it is.

References -Whenever possible, it's a good idea to ask the prospective service provider for any references they might be able to provide, especially from customers located near your job. Conditions vary from area to area and it helps to use a contractor who's familiar with your locale. When it comes to system installations, references are especially important. A contractor should be able to provide a list of clients for whom they have provided services similar to those you're seeking.

Image -You can often get a fairly good idea as to the degree of professionalism a contractor possesses by the image he projects. Clean, well-maintained trucks and equipment and uniformed, courteous technicians usually indicate that the company you are dealing with will provide professional, high quality services.

Galbraith Chews The Fat On News 12
In a News 12 story aired on September 5, 2005, LILWA member and Grease Disposal committee-person, Dave Galbraith, presented the association's view of the ongoing grease problems on Long Island.

The story focused on the conversion of grease into a bio-diesel product that can be used as fuel in specially modified vehicles and the proposed construction of a facility to refine the new product.

As background for the fuel story, it did cover the current situation and the issue of illegal dumping and Galbraith proved to be an articulate spokesman for the association.

The story can be accessed in News 12's Long Island archives at

Suffolk County Adresses Septic System Safety At LILWA Board Meeting - 11/05
At a recent board meeting (11/15/05) Mr. Walter J. Hilbert, P.E., Principal Public Health Engineer of the Suffolk County Department of Health Services gave a short presentation on current code requirements concerning the installation of new residential septic systems on Long Island. Following his presentation the board had a short Q&A with Mr. Hilbert on current topics such as block cesspools, advising the public on safety issues concerning collapsing cesspools, and proper upgrades to existing systems.

Click here for some useful links the public and membership can use to obtain code information and documents that pertain to abandoning existing cesspools, certification of newly installed systems, and the code requirements pertaining to residential and commercial systems.

Glen Cove Accepting "Type A" Septage From Both Nassau & Suffolk Counties
Often quoted Bette Davis line from the 1949 Warner Brothers production of , "Beyond the Forest".
Severn-Trent Environmental Services has announced that the Glen Cove Wastewater Treatment Plant is now accepting "Type-A" septage from both Nassau and Suffolk counties. Please note that among the stringent regulations in effect at the plant, there is a strict ban on grease. Detailed manifests that track the loads are required and all permits and other necessary paperwork must accompany the trucks to the discharge site. Click here to download regs, permit applications and other information.

'Block' Construction Cesspools a "Considerable Danger" _Southampton Press
In a copyrighted article dated October 21, 2005, the Southampton Press explored the dangers of older, 'block construction" cesspools that are so common in eastern Long Island.

The Long Island Liquid Waste Association believes that the article is a well researched and clear presentation of the facts surrounding this important issue. Hopefully, it will serve to raise awareness among homeowners who might not realize the potential dangers that may be lurking under their feet.

By permission of the Southampton Press, LILWA has reprinted the text of the article in it's entirety. The Association would like to thank the publishers for this permission.
The following article is copyrighted material and may not be reproduced or redistributed in any form without the permission of The Southampton Press.

Here Comes That Sinking Feeling

Cesspools may create clear and imminent danger

By Kathryn Jackson Fallon

If a little knowledge can be a dangerous thing, then a complete lack of knowledge can be deadly. While this logic seems dramatic when applied to a topic as seemingly mundane as cesspools, the fact is that homeowners who are unknowing about these systems can be putting themselves in considerable danger. Several years ago, a homeowner on Long Island had a fatal fall into a cesspool in his own backyard. There were no obvious signs warning the 35-year-old man of the danger below.
While this might be an extreme example of what can happen when a covertly crumbling cesspool is ignored and neglected, it is a judicious warning to homeowners to be aware of the location and condition of the cesspools on their properties.

The Way the Cesspool Crumbles

More than half of the homes on the East End of Long Island have older, 'block'-style cesspools. Any building permit drawn before 1972 most likely has these aged systems, which are made of cinder blocks and/or bricks and thus weaken over time. That deterioration can result in anything from a disorienting slope in the yard to an unexpected cave-in with dire consequences. What happens is that over time the mortar between the blocks and even the blocks themselves wear out after years of freezing and thawing. A high water table and the pressure drop when the cesspool is pumped out can also contribute to the problem. Newer cesspools, recast and made of concrete and steel, are less prone to problems. According to Joseph Carrello of Emil Norsic & Son in Southampton, homeowners need to know where the system is and when it was put in. About 60 to 70 percent of the systems on the East End are the old kind.

Where, Oh Where?

In addition to not knowing about their cesspool's condition, many homeowners have no idea where the cesspool is on their properties. A 12-foot-by-12-foot cavern, a cesspool is less an elephant in the living room and more a sleeping monster. Knowing its location in your yard is critical in preventing cave-ins—particularly those caused by delivery trucks that roll over the weak spot that could be under the driveway.
According to contractor Thomas Johnson, "With properties such as flag lots, I have found cesspools that belong to house A on the lot of house B. This creates some difficulty." Within subdivisions, too, sometimes a cesspool might not be on the homeowner's property. In addition, two homes can share one cesspool, unbeknownst to either homeowner.

The Original Intention

Septic systems, when properly maintained and upgraded, can do the job in rural areas where houses spaced far apart make the installation of sewers too expensive. However, says Scott A. Carlin, associate professor of environmental studies and geography at Southampton College, "As areas become more developed, septic systems become a less effective option for treating wastewater. We are surrounded by bays and the ocean here, and cesspools leach nutrients into the groundwater that flows toward the coasts. Excessive nutrients in the waters lead to algae blooms. It is also possible to contaminate shallow private drinking wells with poorly sited septic systems."
There is some debate about whether cesspools should be continued on the East End. According to Mr. Carlin, the time may already be here for expanded sewers. "At some point, communities have to move toward centralized sewage systems," he said. "From an environmental perspective, septic systems are not ideal, but the alternatives are generally more expensive."

An Option for the East End?

Contractor Thomas Johnson believes that septic systems can be efficient if they are upgraded. But he also contends that homeowners have to know as much about the septic system on their properties for their own good as well as for the good of the community.
"People need to know how the septic system is functioning and where it is,' he advised. "Out on the East End, we live on top of our water and have well water in a lot of areas. We want to be sure that it is not compromised by septic systems. Be aware of your own and the neighbor's well or a pond or stream, and also what you are using in the home for cleaning and painting, etc, and the proper way to dispose of it-not down the drain."
Mr. Johnson pointed out the importance of using a responsible contractor who removes the waste to a legal disposal site. As an added health and environmental precaution, he suggested installing a small filter in the outlet side of the tank, which would be cleaned as a part of routine maintenance. "This would also prevent smaller floating debris from going out into the leaching pool," he said.

Warnings and Remediation

For now, septic systems are here—even if not to stay. So it behooves the homeowner to learn some tips on how to keep a cesspool from becoming a dangerous liability. Mr. Carrello had a couple of quick suggestions.
First, don't let cars and delivery trucks unknowingly park over the cesspool area. Second, don't have the cesspool pumped out completely-it could lead to a cave-in. He further suggested that it might be wise for the towns to require inspections of the systems, and upgrading, if necessary, when there is a transfer of property. If a newer cesspool is installed, the old one must be removed or the danger remains.
Of course, if you're purchasing or considering purchasing a new home, make sure you know the condition of the cesspool system - and where it is.

© Copyright: 2005 by The Southampton Press - All rights reserved.

Judge Coleman Steps Down As LILWA President
At the January board meeting, LILWA president, Judge Coleman, resigned his position, turning over stewardship of the Association to Tom Gallagher of Al Aparo Crane and Cesspool. Mr. Coleman, who has served since 2003, cited personal reasons for his departure.

During his tenure, Judge left an indelible mark in a number of important areas of concern for LILWA.. Most notable among those is an intensified certification program that seeks to ensure a high level of competencety and improved safety for industry technicians. He took the lead in establishing LILWA's policies on grease disposal and placed greater emphasis on communications with county officials in Nassau and Suffolk. In addition, Judge worked to to earn greater credibility for the Association through the developement of this web site which gives our members, and the general public, access to technical information, a list of member companies and associates and a means to read our point of view on important issues affecting the industry.

Judge will remain active in the Association even if it means keeping in touch by phone from some stretch of beach on the Florida coast.

Thanks for a great job, Mr. Coleman!

Congratulations and good luck, Mr. Gallagher!

LILWA Elects A New President
If past performance is any indicator of the future, newly elected LILWA president, Tom Gallagher is probably going to hold that office for a long, long time. The man is all about commitment.

At 17, Mr. Gallagher went to work for Al Aparo (Al Aparao Crane & Cesspool) as a helper in the company's portable toilet division. At 37, he's still with Aparo, having advanced through the ranks to become a principal in the company.

Along the way, Tom has held just about every position in the Aparo organization. He is a NYS licensed Sewage Plant Operator and is also state certified to test backflow devices. He is qualified to operate heavy equipment and holds a Class "A" CDL. To say that Tom has a working knowledge of the issues that affect this industry is something of an understatement.

Regarding his presidency, Mr. Gallagher has said that he intends to pick up where his predecessor, Judge Coleman, left off. He wants to pursue solutions to the grease disposal problem, institute tracking procedures for waste haulers, work toward universal certification of industry technicians and strengthen the lines of communication between this organization and government agencies that have jurisdiction over the industry.

He also has plans to increase the "visibility" of LILWA in the community and to work toward betterment of the industry's image, in general.

Oh... and speaking of commitment, Tom also married his high school sweetheart, the former Danielle Aparo. The couple has two daughters.

Other new office holers include, Doug Wholey, Vice President, Tom Johnson, Treasurer and Dick Cescenzo, Secretary.

Congratulations and good luck to all the new officers as they begin their terms.

Treatment Plant Has A Wait Problem
In a memo dated January 23, 2007, Dave Krol, Director of Operations and Maintenance at the Suffolk County Waste Water Treatment Plant at Bergen Point announced lane closings on the road to and from their dump site.

The changes, prompted by construction at the facility, will cause traffic to flow in only one direction at any given time. The direction of travel, in or out of the plant, will be controlled by newly installed traffic signals.

In addition to the lights, speed restrictions will be in effect through the work areas and truckers are advised to expect significant delays entering and exiting the facility. The construction project is scheduled to last approximately nine months.

June 12, 2007_Another death has been attributed to an antiquated cesspool in Suffolk County. The victim in this case was a landscaper, a husband and father of a young child, who was riding a heavy-duty lawn mower that reportedly weighed some 2000 pounds. As he rode over the underground vault, the 60 year-old structure gave way dropping the machine and its operator into the six foot deep man-made cavern.

According to reports, the heavy mower pinned the victim against the wall of the cesspool and he was unable to extricate himself. It was unclear whether the man died from his injuries or from drowning. An autopsy is planned.

For several years, and as long as this web site has been in existence, the Long Island Liquid Waste Association has been trying to raise the public's awareness about the dangers of the old fashioned "block construction" cesspools that are so prevalent in Suffolk County. We have sent out press releases, posted warnings and reprinted articles from other sources. Individual members of this organization have even conducted their own public awareness campaigns. But in light of this tragedy these efforts, however well intentioned, seem to have been inadequate.

It is of the utmost importance that state, county and local authorities, as well as the private sector, mobilize to inform the public about the dangers that lurk beneath their properties and the measures that can be taken to avoid other unnecessary injuries or fatalities.

This copyrighted article is reprinted by permission ofAmerican Liquid Waste Magazine and appears here in its entirety.


If you live on Long Island, chances are you've heard of cesspools, but veryfew people know why they have them and the danger they pose.

In the old days, cesspools were a 10 to 30 feet pit dug in the yard with cinder blocks used to shore up the side-walls. Then a concrete or wooden top is put over the top and covered with topsoil. As wastewater is flushed down the drain, it enters the "pit" and migrates down through the bottom and out through the sides.

The use of cesspools exploded in the 1950's as improvements in transportation allowed people to move out of the cities to suburban areas and commute to work. But these areas were developing so fast, sewage treatment facilities could not keep pace. Rather than wait, developers began using cesspools as a temporary solution with the belief that a treatment facility would be available to these homeowners in 5 to 7 years. And they loved them because they were cheap, easy and took up little room (allowing them to put more homes in an area).

By the 1970's, two things were becoming glaringly apparent; first those sewage treatment facilities were far behind schedule and second, there was obviously a design flaw with these systems because where they were used, the quality of nearby surface waters was significantly declining. It didn't take long to figure out the problem.

In most areas of the country, you can dig down 5 to 20 feet and hit a shallow, seasonal water table, and these are the waters that run into our lakes, rivers, streams, wetlands and oceans. What that means is if you had a 20 foot deep cesspool in an area with a 15 foot water table, you were flushing your toilet into nearby bodies of water.

Wastewater contains parasites and viruses (an obvious health risk), but its also high in nutrients. When introduced into surface waters, it not only spreads disease, it also promotes the growth of algae and plant life.Realizing that something had to be done, universities and water quality agencies began tracking the problem.

Researchers knew that certain types of soils were excellent mechanical filters, but as information was gathered and theories explored, it was found that the naturally occuring bacteria in the top soils performed another valuable service. They consumed the parasites and viruses present in sewage. This, along with the electrostatic processes that takes place in soils, they found that if you used a tank to separtae the solids, first, and utilized shallow trenches, beds, pits (the shallower in soil, the more oxygen there is which allows more bacterial activity and more evaporation) to disperse the the liquid just under the surface, these new designs could treat wastewater better than a multimillion dollar treatment facility.

Unfortunately, not everyone felt this information applied to them. Many of the people who controlled the regulations for states/counties/cities, were operating under the illusion that treatment facilities were just a few years away and saw no reason to make this a priority. Many also felt that development was more critical to the future than dealing with sewage issues, and mandating more restrictive regulations would stifle growth. And in their defence, often when they did propose updating septic regulations, homeowners would fight them, reasoning, "my toilet flushes fine. Why should I spend money upgrading my cesspool when it works?"

However, by the 1990's, most areas of the country began adopting some of these techniques, yet no one bothered to address to address one critical point; the danger of these cesspools already in the ground, collapsing.

Contrary to popular opinion, concrete is not permanent, particularly in a warm, wet caustic environment. After 20 years, it gets soft and it's not a matter of "if" that cesspool is going to cave in, it's "when" that cesspool is going to cave in. Although record keeping on cesspools is spotty, at best, today there arwe millions of these structures in cities, suburbs and rural areas all over the country. On Long Island, there could be more than 300,000 properties with one or more of these structures (often when a cesspool would fail, a second or third one would be dug and seldomthose old ones filled in...even when the house was hooked up to city sewers, they were often ignored.

A better solution is to first find out if you have an old cesspool on your property. It is pretty simple to do a history on the house to find out if it has been on city sewer from the beginning. However, if the house was built in 1952 but didn't get city sewer until 1973, then chances are you have one. It may have been filled in when the house was converted and maybe not. Your best bet would be to call a certified septic contractor to search your property. They usually know where any cesspools might be located and it is simple for them to check if they've been filled in. If they do need filling, it can run from $500 to $1500 or more as it takes more than buying bags of sand and dumping them in. If your cesspool is still in use, you need to get it taken care of ASAP and that means getting it/them filled in and a proper system installed. Don't put it off because you are only putting your and your neighbors at risk (if your neighbor or one of their kids fall into your cesspool, you're guarateed a major lawsuit). But a few other things to factor into it are the fact that an old cesspool could be polluting your environment and no sane person wants to pollute if they can help it.

Also, in the past, health departments were willing to grandfather older systems but that attitude is changing. Today, in some states, you cannot sell your house, put on a new roof or even build a deck if the system does not meet the requirements that are currently on the books. Eventually, this will be the case across the country (should have been done 30 years ago) and you don't want to be taken by surprise because then, things really get expensive. Don't put it off saying, "it will never happen to me." Ask the families of the victims that have died in these cesspools and they will tell you a different story.

Here's a little tip:

If you have a problem, chances are your neighbors will be dealing with it as well. Talk to them about forming a group and hiring a contractor together and getting a group discount.

Jim vonMeier is an environmental specialist with certifications from the University of Minnesota and the Minnesota Polluttion Control Agency. He conducts coomunity education programs around the country, writes articles, hosts a Q&A online column ( and has appeared on numerous news programs as a safety and environmental experton ABC, CBS, NBC, Fox and CNN.

The Case For Certification
How does one choose a company to service a septic system? Is price the major factor? Is a neighborhood business more attractive than a company from outside your area? And what about qualifications? After all is said and done, shouldn't qualifications enter into your decision?

Obviously, most people base their decisions based on a combination of factors. But when it comes to qualifications, how does one judge the competence of service people in any trade where the customer has little or no knowledege?

Recognizing that there were no testing requirements for septic system service technicians, the Long Island Liquid Waste Association instituted a two part Certification Program, open to both member and non-member companies, to train and test their technicians on basic skills as well as health and safety issues.

Technicians who successfully complete the training by passing an examination are then entitled to display the LIWA "Certified Serviceman" patch on their work uniforms and their respective companies may use the same in their advertising.

This helps prospective customers to know if the company working on the septic system on their property possesses the basic requisite knowledge and skills to do the job properly. It is also your assurance that the techicians have been trained in how to preserve the health and safety of the customer as well as themselves.

Consumers who wish to know which of the LILWA member companies have current certification should click here to visit the "Find A Company" page on this site. Companies that have at least one certified employee are highlighted in blue.

Certification training and testing takes place at least once a year with additional sessions being held if needed. Member companies are notified in advance when the sessions occur. Others interested in the training should visit our Certification page. Applications are available for download.

It's official. The country is in the grips of a recession and we're all going to have to do a bit of belt tightening. In view of this unfortunate circumstance, why would any business want to take on an additional expense, such as membership in a trade organization' Well sir'or madam' membership in an organization like ours may just be one of the best investments you can make to help guide your business through these uncertain times. Read on.

The Long Island Liquid Waste Association has three types of membership: Regular Membership, Associate (A) and Associate (B).

Regular Membership is open to Septic Service Contractors licensed to operate in Nassau and/or Suffolk County. The majority of these companies can be considered small businesses with many having less than five employees, and companies of this size are often at a distinct disadvantage when purchasing many of the goods and services needed to operate. However, as LILWA members, they can take advantage of the purchasing power of the group and the savings can be considerable. For instance, the discount on group health insurance plans alone, obtained through LILWA, can actually exceed the cost of membership in the Association.

In addition, regular members may opt to be listed in the Find A Company page, an extremely popular feature of this web site. All members in good standing appear on the page, in alphabetical order, with their core operating area, so that potential customers who may be searching for a company by name, or by geographical area, can easily find a company to work with. LILWA's ranking in the search engines often puts us in the top five or better in the results of internet searches related to septic system problems. Picking up one or two jobs in this way can more than make up the cost of LILWA membership, and as is often the case, once you've done work for a customer, additional business follows.

Keep abreast of the latest industry technologies, equipment and health and safety issues, as well as special deals and offers by attending Board Meetings (open to all members), Special Seminars, and Committee Meetings. Members are also kept informed via a quarterly newsletter, this web site and monthly mailings of the Board Meeting minutes.

Other benefits include a comprehensive Certification Program through which your employees are given instruction and tested on basic industry health and safety issues and the necessary skills to function as competent technicians in the Septic Service Industry. Companies with employees who complete the program satisfactorily are highlighted in the Find A Company listings. Candidates for certification are charged a nominal fee for instruction and testing.

Members also have an efficient line of communication to the Suffolk County Septic Licensing Board via LILWA members who sit on the county Septic Advisory Board. Other networking opportunities exist at LILWA Board Meetings and social functions.

There are two types of Associate Memberships. The first (A) is open to those in related industries, such as operators of sewage treatment plants, manufacturers and/or suppliers of equipment used in our industry. These Associates have the same rights and benefits as Regular Members including the right to hold and/or nominate candidates for office, serve on committees and to vote in Association elections. They may also participate in the Internet Banner Advertising Program whereby Associates' ads are carried on the LILWA web site at no additional charge. Associate Member businesses are often given preference by the Regular Membership when they purchase goods and services. Associate Members can also make presentations at LILWA meetings and the networking opportunities have proven invaluable to many of the businesses who are currently enrolled, all of which makes Associate Membership an excellent investment.

The second type of Associate Membership (B) is open to any other businesses or individuals that support the mission and ideals of the Association. These members do not hold office nor do they vote in Association elections. As such, their dues are much less than the other classes of membership they may attend meetings and network with the other members. As with all Associates, the other members often prefer to do business with LIWA members. Associate (B) members are also eligible to participate in the Internet Banner Advertising Program at no additional charge. The monthly cost of this membership is under $17 a month, less than you'd pay for a banner ad on a comparable web site.

November 29, 2009
It's happened again. An aging Long Island cesspool has collapsed, taking down another unsuspecting person who was merely walking across a lawn, completely unaware of the danger lurking beneath his feet.

This time, thankfully, there were other people in the area and the 71 year old victim was able to be rescued. Had there been no one there to witness the accident, the results would certainly have been a lot worse. The elderly gentleman, Edward Matos, was submer- ged up to his chest and in a matter of a very few minutes, could have succumbed to the noxious gasses present in active septic systems. Luckily, Mr. Matos, having suffered no major injuries, is alive and well, with nothing damaged except, maybe, his pride.

But collapsing cesspools are no laughing matter. In recent years, there have been many collapses, some resulting in serious injury and even death. This web site has been reporting on the problem since its inception in 2004, with no fewer than 5 articles on the subject (Archives) and LILWA president, Tom Gallagher, has pledged to make the issue a priority for this organization.

Clearly it is time that our state and local authorities begin to take the problem seriously and start to take action to reduce the threat that now exists - and as the stock of aging septic systems continues to get older - will only get worse.

The problem is primarily centered on cesspools built prior to 1976. Many of them were made of brick or cement blocks and due to certain additives in the mortar or in the materials used to cast the blocks themselves, have become compromised and too weak to withstand the pressure from years freezes and thaws, filling and draining and the even the weight of the soil in which they're buried. Add to that the people, equip- ment and vehicles which may travel over the cesspool and you have a prescription for disaster.

Watch this space for further information about this very serious problem.

If your septic system hasn't been serviced for quite some time, this might be a good time to have it done.

A month-long marathon of Holiday cooking, baking, house guests and parties can put an increased load on the system. All too often, the Holidays is the time of year when cesspool and septic system emergencies seem to crop up.

But little preventive medicine can save you a ton of aggravation and embarrassment. Just make sure that you have the system looked at by a reputable service company; one that is fully licensed and insured and preferably, one where the technicians are LILWA certified. It's your assurance that the service people have the necessary training to perform the required services properly and safely.

There is an extensive list of qualified service companies on the "Find A Company" page and while LILWA can't recommend a specific company, everyone on the list is a member in good standing of this organization and as such, required to be fully licensed and insured in the county(ies) in which they operate.

Click here to access the list.

© Copyright 2004 , 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012 by Long Island Liquid Waste Association. All rights reserved.