Governor Kathy Hochul has announced the start of construction of the $408.8 million Suffolk County Coastal Resiliency Initiative, which includes wastewater conveyance and treatment upgrades along with sewer system connections for more than 4,000 homes in the Town of Babylon, with connections for an additional 1,700 homes in Mastic-Shirley set to begin later this year. This innovative project leverages federal and state resources with local funding to prevent nitrogen and other contaminants from pollution Long Island's coastal waters. Other environmental benefits to this critical project include improving water quality, restoring ecosystems, and bolstering natural coastal barriers to protect communities from future flooding and severe storms fueled by climate change.
"As we recognize the anniversary of Superstorm Sandy, we are reflecting on the ways in which that storm exposed the need for New York to be resilient in the face of Mother Nature," Governor Hochul said. "The Coastal Resiliency Initiative is a comprehensive series of projects which will go great lengths towards improving the resiliency of thousands of homes in Suffolk County that are currently relying on septic tanks. With construction now underway, New York is continuing to build on our goals of combatting the impacts of climate change and ensuring communities have the modern infrastructure they need to withstand extreme weather."
Thousands of homes in the Carlls River and Forge River Watersheds are unsewered and manage wastewater via on-site systems like septic tanks and cesspools. The outdated septic tanks and cesspools are prone to capacity failure as residents frequently need to limit household tasks such as dishwashing and laundry. The wastewater systems also cause ecological harm to the waterways as untreated sewage can inundate the watersheds with nitrogen and other harmful pollutants, and result in coastal ecosystem degradation. A 2014 report issued by DEC detailed the adverse impacts of nitrogen pollution on the region's natural coastal defenses and served as a catalyst for advancing funding for this project.
The announcement also comes on the ninth anniversary of Superstorm Sandy, which inundated approximately half of the areas' existing wastewater systems with flood water. To improve coastal resilience in the face of sea level rise and more intense storms fueled by climate change, the reduction in nitrogen and pollutants in the watersheds will help build back natural coastal wetlands that serve as barriers to storm surge and flooding along the South Shore.
The Carlls River project is anticipated to be completed in 2024, with Forge River to follow in 2026.
Through the Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Management (DHSES) and Governor's Office of Storm Recovery (GOSR), these projects leverage $243.5 million of Hazard Mitigation Grant Program (HMGP) funding from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and $66.4 million of Community Development Block Grant - Disaster Recovery (CDBG-DR) funding from US Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD).
In addition to the start of construction in Babylon and Brookhaven, DEC is providing the village of Patchogue with $21 million to connect an additional 248 homes to sewer systems to reduce the flow of harmful nitrogen and other contaminants originating from cesspools and septic tanks into vital water sources such as Long Island's aquifers, coastal bays, lakes, and waterways.
New York State Department of Environmental Conservation Commissioner Basil Seggos said, "Improving coastal resilience in the face of climate change requires all hands on deck, and we are proud to work with Governor Hochul, Suffolk County, and our partners in the Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Management and the Governor's Office of Storm Recovery to make projects like this a reality. DEC's coastal and water quality experts continue to work directly with communities across Long Island to finance and advance critical projects that protect our waters and reduce nitrogen pollution, and today's groundbreaking is a critical milestone in these efforts. The additional $21 million in DEC investment to help the village of Patchogue connect an estimated 248 homes to sewers is just another example of Governor Hochul's commitment to helping communities across Long Island protect our waters for future generations of New Yorkers."
New York State Division of Homeland Security Executive Deputy Commissioner Terence J. O'Leary said, "As extreme weather continues to impact the lives of New Yorkers, projects like this will provide a tremendous benefit in re-establishing natural coastal barriers which will ultimately mitigate storm surge and floodwaters from damaging personal property and critical infrastructure. I am proud of the Division's Disaster Recovery team's dedicated efforts and collaboration with Suffolk County and other state agencies to make this project a reality"
Deputy Executive Director of the NY Rising Community Reconstruction and Infrastructure Programs at the Governor's Office of Storm Recovery Eileen Méus said, "In addition to the ecological and quality of life benefits, the reduction in nitrogen in Suffolk County's waterways will build back stronger wetlands, providing a natural coastal barrier from storm surge and flooding. We are thrilled to join Governor Hochul and County Executive Bellone in celebrating this critical milestone."
Senator Chuck Schumer said, "Suffolk County's lack of modern wastewater infrastructure leads to vast nitrogen pollution in our waterways, degrades our coastal defenses, threatens public health, and stifles sustainable, economic growth. I'm proud to have fought tooth-and-nail to deliver a massive $300-million-plus federal investment for this vital resiliency project, and to have urged FEMA and OMB earlier this year to swiftly approve the release of funds for these contracts. County Executive Bellone is wisely allocating an additional $46 million in American Rescue Plan funding that I secured for Suffolk County to fill funding gaps and keep this initiative moving forward. This project will create hundreds of good-paying construction jobs, clean our environment, enhance resiliency efforts, and provide for Suffolk County's largest sewer expansion in four decades, improving Suffolk County and its residents' quality of life for decades to come."
Representative Lee Zeldin said, "COVID-19 impacted so many aspects of our way of life, and it was absolutely critical that we save local infrastructure projects that experienced unexpected delays due to the pandemic. The Forge River and Carlls River sewer projects are critical to our quality of life in Suffolk County, and I'm honored to have worked across the aisle with House and Senate leadership, as well as the White House, in December to secure an extension of the funding deadline, save these projects and ensure that they get across the finish line. That this announcement comes on the ninth anniversary of Superstorm Sandy and all the devastation it caused serves as just another reminder of how important these projects are to the safety of our communities."
Representative Andrew Garbarino said, "Suffolk County has long required this sewer expansion. Sewers are the lynchpin on which the revitalization of our community rests. There is much more to be done but I'm proud to see the investment in Suffolk County that ensures it gets the wastewater treatments and sewer system upgrades it needs."
County Executive Steve Bellone said, "On the ninth anniversary of Superstorm Sandy, we are taking a huge step forward in our efforts to make Long Island more resistant to climate change. Thanks to the strong support we have received from Senator Chuck Schumer and our partners in New York State government, we have reached an important milestone as we bring these historic projects to the point of construction. To simply call these projects a win-win does not adequately describe the magnitude of the benefits they will bring to our region. Injecting $400 million into the regional economy will help boost our economic recovery from the COVID pandemic. Not only that, but this project will eliminate nearly 6,000 of the cesspools and septic systems that scientists tell us are killing our bays and harbors. This a tremendous victory for our economy and our environment."