By Lisa Finn, Patch Staff
Posted Mon, Nov 28, 2022 at 2:37 pm ET
“This federal funding will improve watersheds and septic systems in countless Long Island communities, furthering our commitment to ensure all New Yorkers have access to safe, clean water,” Gov. Kathy Hochul said.
LONG ISLAND, NY — An influx of $2.25 million in federal funds will be aimed at improving water quality and reducing pollution on Long Island, Gov. Kathy Hochul said Monday.
Hochul and the Long Island Sound Study announced an initial $2.25 million in new federal funding provided by the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law to improve the water quality of Long Island’s north shore. In addition, the funding will be used toward the finalization of a plan to help Nassau County reduce nitrogen pollution, Hochul said.
Building on scientific pollution-reduction plans and the state’s clean water infrastructure grants under the framework of the Long Island Nitrogen Action Plan, the two efforts will bring added resources to advance efforts to restore and protect Long Island’s drinking water and bays, Hochul said.
“This federal funding will improve watersheds and septic systems in countless Long Island communities, furthering our commitment to ensure all New Yorkers have access to safe, clean water,” Hochul said.
Goals include addressing excess nitrogen, which leads to “dead zones,” or hypoxia, in marine waters, possible fish kills, harmful algal blooms, and the ongoing deterioration of storm-resistant marshlands, Hochul said.
The funding announced Monday is the first installment in a multi-year plan with the Long Island Sound Study to replace outdated septic systems in both Suffolk and Nassau counties, Hochul said. Over the course of five years, an anticipated $8 million from the federal Bipartisan Infrastructure Law will help support state- and locally-driven water quality improvements, she said.
The Long Island Sound Study is led by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, New York, and Connecticut, Hochul said.
During the first year, the $2.25 million grant will be awarded to the Suffolk County Reclaim Our Water Initiative and Nassau County’s Septic Environmental Program to Improve Cleanliness program through New York State, Hochul said.
The septic system grant programs improve water quality by ncentivizing homeowners’ replacement of cesspools and failing or inadequate septic systems. New York State will provide funds to Suffolk and Nassau counties to reimburse eligible property owners for a portion of the cost of replacing cesspools and inadequate septic systems and installing more environmentally effective systems, Hochul explained. Homeowners can receive funds from both the state and county programs, resulting in at least $20,000 in grants to install the more environmentally effective systems that remove more nitrogen than a conventional septic system, she added.
The DEC also recently approved the Nassau County Nine Key Element Plan for Nitrogen. The plan helps advance efforts to restore and protect the water quality of the groundwater and bays around Nassau County. The program was funded in part by the Long Island Sound Study and is a collaboration between Nassau County, the DEC, and Stony Brook University’s School of Atmospheric and Marine Sciences, Hochul said.
The result is a science-driven plan to reduce the amount of nitrogen entering the waters in and around Nassau County. Suffolk County completed a similar “Nine Element Plan” in 2021, she said.
The Nassau County Nine Element Plan identifies nitrogen sources and uses tools to determine the changes in nitrogen depending on management practices put in place. The plan then recommends a variety of best management practices and actions that can be implemented to meet the nitrogen reduction targets, including connecting homes and businesses to public sewers, reducing fertilizer use, and replacing failing septic systems with alternative on-site treatment systems, among other things, Hochul said.
The plan includes the Bay Park Conveyance Project and the Long Beach Diversion Project. The Bay Park Conveyance Project is a partnership between DEC and the Nassau County Department of Public Works to improve water quality and storm resiliency in Long Island’s western bays by upgrading its existing wastewater management infrastructure.
Treated water will be moved from the South Shore Water Reclamation Facility, previously known as the Bay Park Sewage Treatment Plant, which currently discharges an average of 50 million gallons per day of treated water into Reynolds Channel, to the Cedar Creek Water Pollution Control Plant’s three-mile ocean outfall pipe — thus removing the discharge to Reynolds Channel.
The Long Beach Wastewater Diversion Project will convert the Long Beach wastewater treatment plant to a pump station, Hochul said. Wastewater will be pumped from the pump station to the South Shore Water Reclamation Facility for treatment. The South Shore Water Reclamation Facility is also far-along in the process of completing a storm-resilient upgrade undertaken at no expense to local rate-payers or Nassau County, she said.
Nassau County Executive Bruce Blakeman applauded the news: “I am very pleased to partner with Governor Hochul to put these federal funds to good use helping to protect the waterways on Long Island. I also appreciate the help of Senator Schumer and our other federal officials who helped secure these much needed funds.”
Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone also noted: “When I came into office, I declared nitrogen public enemy number one for our water. Since then, we have made tremendous strides, including the rollout of the Suffolk County Reclaim Our Water Initiative, helping to significantly reduce the amount of nitrogen seeping into our waterways.”
Dr. Christopher Gobler, Professor within the School of Marine and Atmospheric Sciences at Stony Brook University, added: “This action is further evidence of New York State investing in its most precious commodity: clean water. These projects will protect Long Island’s drinking water supply while also protecting surface waters and associated marine and freshwater fisheries and habitats. While the quality of drinking water and surface waters on Long Island had declined for decades, the efforts made by New York State during the past several years and this action have collectively begun to reverse these trends to the benefit of current Long Islanders and future generations.”
Citizens Campaign for the Environment Executive Director Adrienne Esposito called the new funding source “another victory in the battle to fight nitrogen pollution and improve water quality in the Long Island Sound. Hypoxia, red tide, rust tide and fish die-offs are all linked to excessive nitrogen pollution. Replacing antiquated septics with new technology that treats our sewage will protect our beaches, bays and harbors. The unprecedented state and federal investments in water infrastructure will provide lasting local benefits to our communities.”