Suffolk County, NY - May 14, 2014 - In a personal meeting, U.S. Senator Charles E. Schumer urged HUD Secretary Shaun Donovan to fund three critical sewer projects in Suffolk County with Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) funding from the Sandy Relief Bill.
“Modern sewer infrastructure is a critical component of nitrogen removal and flood-protection, yet only thirty percent of Suffolk County has access to sewers. That is why HUD should make sure Suffolk receives a healthy share of Sandy-relief CDBG funds to finance critical water-sewer upgrades,” said Senator Schumer.
During Hurricane Sandy, storm surge surpassed the FEMA 100-year flood level mark in many Suffolk communities that lack sewer access. The potential of extreme Sandy-type storm events and sea-level rise, combined with the degradation of protective tidal wetlands from Suffolk’s septic systems, poses a growing threat to these communities. Suffolk County is seeking federal funds for three sewer projects in Suffolk County that would service 12,000 homes, and for which a funding pot has not yet been identified.
Recently, a draft proposal surfaced that detailed a potential HUD plan to divert $1 billion of the remaining $3.6 billion in CDBG funds to other states across the country. Schumer and other members of the New York and New Jersey delegation have taken issue with this consideration, and HUD Secretary Donovan has since committed to meeting critical needs in the Sandy-impacted region before sending dollars elsewhere. Schumer said that CDBG funds should be used in part to fund these Suffolk sewer projects to help expand the sewer system to service 12,000 homes.
“With talk of Sandy money going elsewhere, we must make sure that Suffolk County’s outstanding needs are taken care of first and because Suffolk is in-need of critical infrastructure upgrades like expanded sewer service, HUD should make sure these projects gets funded with Sandy-relief bill CDBG funds,” said Schumer. “These projects will give 12,000 homes access to sewers so runoff doesn’t go into the Great South Bay and make matters worse. The bottomline is: Sandy Relief funding should be used for these critical sewage remediation projects before a nickel goes elsewhere.”
According to Suffolk County, Hurricane Sandy highlighted a long-neglected environmental problem in low-lying South Shore communities: rising nitrogen pollution fed from failing septic systems and cesspools. As nitrogen has poured into Suffolk’s aquifer, bays and rivers, it has caused not only a water quality crisis, but eroded protective coastal wetlands to the point of failure during a storm.
Suffolk County is seeking federal funding for three new sewer projects. The three projects include sewering low-lying, flood vulnerable communities to provide environmental and storm mitigation. The projects focus on communities near rivers that feed into the Great South Bay. Overall, the projects would impact 12,000 homes.
First, the Southwest District Expansion project will expand the existing sewer district to 5,500 homes and service six communities including North Babylon, Deer Park, West Babylon, Wyandanch, Wheatley Heights and West Islip. The expansion will increase business investment, increase workforce housing opportunities and improve water quality near the Carlls River. Suffolk is seeking $325 million in federal funds for this project.
The second project includes a construction of a new sewage treatment plant in the Mastic-Shirley area, near the Forge River, which will service 5,300 homes. The Suffolk County Legislature recently voted to approve $1 million to fund the final design for the creation of the sewer district along the western banks of the Forge River. Suffolk is seeking $300 million in federal funds for this project.
The third project will extend existing sewer systems in Oakdale, near the Connetquot River, to 1,300 homes. According to Suffolk County, flooding from Hurricane Sandy caused damage to many structures in the area of Oakdale. By extending sewers to the Oakdale area and eliminating the use of septic systems and cesspools, the health of wetlands and seagrass beds will improve by reducing the nitrogen discharge to the groundwater and surface waters, which could help to prevent or reduce future flooding and damage from future storm surges. Suffolk is seeking $125 million in federal funds for this project.
In a personal meeting with HUD Secretary Shaun Donovan, Schumer noted the intent of the CDBG title in the Sandy Relief Bill was to fund major infrastructure resiliency efforts like Suffolk’s new sewer plan. Schumer urged HUD to work with the State of New York and Suffolk County to channel CDBG funding for Suffolk County’s new sewer plan.