Suffolk seeks $1B in Sandy aid to cut water pollution
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Suffolk County is seeking nearly $1 billion in superstorm Sandy recovery aid to extend sewers to 12,000 homes along the South Shore and repair an outflow pipe from the Bergen Point Sewage Treatment Plant, county officials said Tuesday.
County Executive Steve Bellone said the projects would help restore Great South Bay wetlands and marshes, which serve as barriers during storms, by reducing nitrogen pollution from home septic tanks and cesspools.
"This would be the greatest investment in clean water infrastructure in generations," Bellone said Tuesday. "It's critical to restoring the coastal vegetation which is a natural protective barrier for tens of thousands of homes along the South Shore of Long Island."
The sewering plan would hook up homes in North Babylon and Deer Park; in Oakdale; and in Mastic, Mastic Beach and Shirley. The three projects would cost a total $750 million.
County officials said Suffolk also has asked for $242 million in Sandy relief money from the Federal Emergency Management Agency to replace a pipe that carries treated effluent from Bergen Point in West Babylon into the Atlantic Ocean. That pipe nearly failed during superstorm Sandy in October 2012, said county spokesman Justin Meyers.
Bellone discussed the sewer expansion this week with Jamie Rubin, program director of Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo's Office of Storm Recovery, said spokeswoman Barbara Brancaccio.
"They submitted a pre-application so the state could get a better sense of what they would like to accomplish and we are working to determine eligibility," Brancaccio said.
Bellone said the county expects the state to make a decision on the projects' eligibility within several months.
The state's NY Rising program has $2.097 billion in the latest round of federal funding to divide between housing, community reconstruction and infrastructure.
Cuomo in January announced $730 million in grants to help rebuild the Bay Park Sewage Treatment Plant in Nassau County, the largest aid package awarded to date on Long Island for superstorm Sandy recovery.
Bellone in January announced that reducing nitrogen pollution would be the top focus of his administration this year because of its effects on surface water and drinking water, and as protection against storm surges.
About 70 percent of the nitrogen in the water comes from homes, and 75 percent of the county has no sewers.
"We know the salt marshes we have today, if they continue to weaken, it's going to make the shoreline more vulnerable to storms," said Christopher Gobler, a professor at the School of Marine and Atmospheric Sciences at Stony Brook University.
All three sites that Bellone disclosed Tuesday are along rivers that flow into the Great South Bay. They also were selected because of the density of development and because septic tanks are close to the water table, said Sarah Landsdale, Suffolk's director of planning.
The plan calls for:
Sewer lines for 5,300 homes in the Mastic, Shirley and Mastic Beach area near the Forge River, at a cost of $300 million. The proposal would include construction of a new sewage plant.
Expanding the existing Southwest Sewer District in Deer Park/North Babylon near the Carlls River to 5,500 homes, at a cost of $325 million.
Extending sewers to 1,300 homes in Oakdale near the Connetquot River at a cost of $125 million.
Ongoing maintenance costs would be covered by homeowners through sewer district assessments, county officials said.Landsdale said sewering the proposed areas would reduce nitrogen pollution in the Great South Bay by 25 percent. She cited a 2011 study in the Journal of Coastal Research on nitrogen loading in the bay, which included data on each of the three rivers the plan aims to protect.
FEMA officials could not be reached for comment Tuesday night about the funding request for the Bergen Point outfall pipe.
David Calone, chairman of the Suffolk County Planning Commission, said areas in Oakdale and Shirley can't grow because of the lack of sewers. "It would be a huge deal for the county and our region for there to be substantial money for sewers that make our region more resilient."
Environmental advocates said the areas have been identified as areas of nitrogen pollution.
"These are top three critical areas that should be sewered, without question," said Adrienne Esposito, executive director of Concerned Citizens for the Environment.