The state Environmental Facilities Corporation has awarded more than $250 million...

The state Environmental Facilities Corporation has awarded more than $250 million in state grants to Long Island water providers for a range of projects, including treating emerging water contaminants. Credit: Newsday/Steve Pfost

Long Island water providers will receive more than $250 million in state grants for infrastructure upgrades — including the cost of treating emerging contaminants — lessening the ratepayer burden for the projects.

The money from the state Environmental Facilities Corporation will benefit 22 Long Island water providers with projects ranging from $2.7 million awarded to the Hampton Bays Water District for a water main under Shinnecock Bay, to more than $31 million to the Water Authority of Western Nassau for contaminant removal.

New York State in 2020 set maximum contaminant levels for 1,4-dioxane, a likely carcinogen and industrial solvent also found in trace amounts in household products; perfluorooctane sulfonic acid [PFOS], used in firefighting foams; and perfluorooctanoic acid [PFOA] found in stain- and water-resistant material. The Long Island Water Conference, which represents providers, has said it will cost Long Island suppliers more than $1.5 billion to comply with the new standards.

About 90% of the grant money will fund projects to remove 1,4-dioxane from drinking water, said Dennis Kelleher, an engineer and a spokesman for the water conference.

Without the money, water rates would spike 50% to 100% across Nassau and Suffolk counties, he said.

“The whole water industry is just thrilled that the state has realized the problem we have on Long Island with 1,4-dioxane,” Kelleher said. “This is going to be helpful to all the people on Long Island so the water suppliers can keep our water rates reasonable.”

Systems that remove 1,4-dioxane from drinking water rely on an advanced oxidation process, known as AOP, along with more traditional carbon filtering, and can cost millions of dollars, Kelleher said. The systems also require additional energy and testing, making them more expensive to operate, he said. 

Twenty AOP units are in use across Long Island with an additional 15 to 20 under construction, Kelleher said.

He and others in the industry have said the process of treating the recently regulated contaminants has been the most expensive and labor-intensive infrastructure investment they’ve seen in their careers. For many providers, it’s the first time they have ever applied for grant money, Kelleher said.

Paul Granger, superintendent of the Hicksville Water District, estimated the upgrades would cost his district about $70 million, significantly more than its $12 million annual operating budget. Hicksville received about $17.5 million in funding this round, which, coupled with $12 million it received in an earlier round, will mean the district can take on less debt.

“You’re very nervous when you start seeing [with inflation] the prices between fuel, all the equipment and construction materials increasing, so that'll definitely help mitigate costs,” he said.

Still, he said, operating costs could increase $5 million a year to run the new systems.

Suffolk County Water Authority CEO Jeff Szabo said the agency has been testing and treating the contaminants for years and has already allocated $31 million in funding, “but there is a long way to go.”

The water authority will receive about $19 million, including $2.7 million to connect Manorville residents in Brookhaven Town living near the former Grumman naval weapons plant to public water. Contamination has been detected there in private wells, which are not required to be tested or treated to meet drinking water standards.

“We thank Governor Hochul for providing this funding to help us connect Manorville residents with contaminated private wells to safe and constantly tested SCWA water,” Szabo said in a statement.

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