Oakdale will receive $26.4 million for sewers — money that Great River residents turned down in a referendum last month, Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo announced Friday.
Speaking to the Long Island Association business group, Cuomo said he will redirect the federal and state funds to a project aimed at connecting up to 400 Oakdale houses to the existing sewer system. They currently rely on septic systems that leak nitrogen into the Great South Bay.
Brookhaven and Babylon towns had vied for the sewer money after Great River voters turned down a proposal to connect 474 parcels along the Connetquot River to sewers. Some Great River voters balked at paying $755 annually to support a proposed sewer district while others opposed the sewer technology that was to be used.
In two other referendums, Mastic and Babylon residents overwhelmingly approved $331 million worth of sewer projects that would cover 6,500 homes.
"The hundreds of thousands of aging septic tanks leaking toxic pollutants into Long Island's waterways are doing serious and potentially irrevocable damage not just to the environment but also to the region's economy," Cuomo said. "This critical funding will help address the problem head-on and finally put a stop to the insidious algae blooms and fish die-offs plaguing the region."
The governor and Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone have made sewer hookups a top agenda item as nitrogen pollution worsens.
Cuomo said Suffolk will manage the Oakdale project and the funds will cover both planning and construction expenses. Work will probably start next year.
After the announcement on Friday, Bellone said, “Investing these funds in sewers ... will increase water quality in the Great South Bay, and improve the quality of life in a community that has been waiting for sewers for decades."
Suffolk is home to 360,000 septic systems and cesspools, which account for 69 percent of nitrogen pollution. The Oakdale project, together with those in Mastic, Babylon, Patchogue and elsewhere, represent the county’s largest sewer expansion since the 1970s.
A spokeswoman for the state Department of Environmental Conservation said state and Suffolk officials are evaluating whether Oakdale residents must vote on the project.
Islip Town Supervisor Angie Carpenter praised Cuomo for keeping the sewer money in the town. "On the issue of whether a referendum is needed to move forward, I would leave that to the legal experts to determine,” she said.
Brookhaven Town Supervisor Edward Romaine said, "I am disappointed in the governor's decision but hopeful that there will be funds available in the future."