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Governor Hochul Announces $2.25 Million in Federal Funding to Improve Long Island Water Quality and Reduce Pollution

Government and Politics

November 28, 2022

From: New York Governor Kathy Hochul

Governor Kathy Hochul and the Long Island Sound Study today 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 to the finalization of a critical plan to help Nassau County reduce nitrogen pollution. Building on major scientific pollution-reduction plans and State 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.

"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," Governor Hochul said. "Thanks to the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, we will continue to work with President Biden and the Environmental Protection Agency as more resources become available to address the critical water infrastructure challenges facing our communities and further achieve our water quality improvement objectives."

The announcements today will help address excess nitrogen, which leads to areas of dead zones or hypoxia in marine waters, potential fish kills, harmful algal blooms, and deterioration of storm-resilient marshlands. The $2.25 million announced today is the first installment in a multi-year anticipated partnership with the Long Island Sound Study that will significantly increase funding available to replace outdated septic systems in Suffolk and Nassau counties. Over the course of five years, an anticipated $8 million from the federal Bipartisan Infrastructure Law (BIL) will help support state- and locally-driven water quality improvements. The Long Island Sound Study is a cooperative effort involving researchers, regulators, user groups, and other stakeholders, and is led by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), New York, and Connecticut.

In year one, the Study will provide a $2.25 million grant to the Suffolk County Reclaim Our Water Initiative and Nassau County's Septic Environmental Program to Improve Cleanliness (S.E.P.T.I.C.) program through New York State. The septic system grant programs improve water quality by encouraging and incentivizing 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. 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.

Department of Environmental Conservation Commissioner Basil Seggos said, "New York's longstanding partnership with the Long Island Sound Study, bolstered by the support of President Biden, EPA Administrator Regan, and our Congressional Delegation's support of federal environmental quality and climate investments continue to bear fruit. Through this infusion of funding from the Federal government, we will be able to accelerate the installation of septic systems to protect water quality and our environment and continue our work with Nassau County to greatly improve water quality in many ways. Long Island's water quality issues are serious and the State's efforts to secure additional funding demonstrates Governor Hochul and DEC's commitment to continuing to invest in local governments' leadership to address water quality problems and create healthier communities."  

U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Region 2 Administrator Lisa F. Garcia said, "Long Island Sound and its neighboring waters are essential and critical resources for millions of people living along one of the most urbanized coastlines in the country. Thanks to funding made available by the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, the U.S. EPA is excited to be directing an initial $2.25 million of EPA Long Island Sound Study funds to New York to strengthen the health of our coastal communities. EPA's funding will assist with green infrastructure, streambank and shore restoration, and updating septic systems with new technologies to reduce nitrogen pollution."

U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Long Island Sound Office Director Mark Tedesco said, "Reducing nitrogen pollution in the Sound has been a long-standing goal for LISS. We are excited to take this next step by working directly with local communities to help ensure a healthier environment."

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 embayments around Nassau County. Its development was funded in part by the Long Island Sound Study and is a collaboration between Nassau County, DEC, and Stony Brook University's School of Atmospheric and Marine Sciences (SoMAS). 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.

The Nassau County Nine Element Plan identifies and quantifies nitrogen sources and uses tools to determine the changes in nitrogen depending on management practices put in place. It 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 septics with innovative alternative on-site treatment systems, among other things.

The plan includes two actions currently being implemented that will remove a significant amount of nitrogen from being discharged close to shore: 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. It will convey treated water 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 (WPCP) 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. Wastewater will be pumped from pump station to the South Shore Water Reclamation Facility for treatment. Additionally, the South Shore Water Reclamation Facility is far-along toward a complete storm-resilient upgrade undertaken at no expense to local rate-payers or Nassau County.

Senator Chuck Schumer said, "I have long fought to protect Long Island's environment and sole-source drinking-water aquifer against the scourge of nitrogen pollution. I have brought record federal funding in all areas back to New York, including for drinking- and wastewater-infrastructure projects, and I applaud Governor Hochul and County Executive Bellone for dedicating much of that federal funding to sewer expansion and Suffolk County's Septic Improvement Program. This allocation of another $2.25 million in federal funds is a shot in the arm for the effort to preserve Long Island's waterways and ensure public health."

Nassau County Executive Bruce Blakeman said, "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 said, "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. I would like to thank New York State for their continued support and for helping to provide the funds to improve Long Island's water quality for generations to come."

Dr. Christopher Gobler, Professor within the School of Marine and Atmospheric Sciences (SoMAS) at Stony Brook University, said, "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 said, "This new funding source is 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. We thank our state and federal leaders that champion clean water."

The Nature Conservancy's Long Island policy advisor Kevin McDonald said, "The Nature Conservancy commends Governor Hochul for dedicating significant new resources to accelerate the restoration of clean water and healthy coasts on Long Island. Nitrogen pollution from antiquated septic systems hurts wildlife, closes beaches, and threatens our economy, health, and way of life. The Nature Conservancy thanks the many leaders of this effort and looks forward to continuing to support and advance these critical conservation investments across the entire island."

Record water quality infrastructure funding from New York State also continues to support septic replacement. Most recently, Governor Kathy Hochul announced $30 million from the State's Septic Replacement Program - $22 million of which will go to Long Island projects - to help address thousands of substandard or failing septic systems and cesspools that cause significant water quality impairments in the region and throughout the state. The 2022-23 State Budget authorized an additional $1.2 billion, for a total of $4.2 billion, for the landmark Clean Water, Clean Air, and Green Jobs Environmental Bond Act. This historic initiative overwhelmingly approved by New York voters, will update aging water infrastructure, and protect water quality; reduce air pollution and lower climate-altering emissions; restore habitats; strengthen communities' ability to withstand severe storms and flooding; preserve outdoor spaces and local farms; and ensure equity by investing at least 35 percent, with a goal of 40 percent, of resources in disadvantaged communities.

The budget also included another $500 million in clean water infrastructure funding, bringing the State's total clean water investment to $4.5 billion since 2017. The budget also provides a record $400 million Environmental Protection Fund to support climate change mitigation and adaptation efforts, improve agricultural resources to promote sustainable agriculture, protect our water sources, advance conservation efforts, and provide recreational opportunities for New Yorkers.

Septic funding grant programs and the Nine Element Plan are part of the larger Long Island Nitrogen Action Plan, or LINAP, which is a partnership between DEC, the Long Island Regional Planning Council, and Suffolk and Nassau Counties to coordinate nitrogen reduction efforts on the island. LINAP was developed in response to documented water quality issues due to excess nitrogen entering the ground and surface waters and has made significant strides in better understanding the sources of nitrogen and how best to reduce those sources.

To learn more about the Suffolk County Reclaim Our Water septic program email: septicdemo@suffolkcountyny.gov. To learn more about the Nassau County Septic Environmental Program to Improve Cleanliness (SEPTIC) program visit their website at: https://www.nassaucountyny.gov/5191/Nassau-Septic.