The state’s new $168 billion budget allocates funding toward a number of environmental initiatives on Long Island, including $5 million for the Sandy-damaged Bay Park Sewage Treatment Plant, $1.5 million for sewer improvements in Suffolk County and $7.6 million for storm restoration and beach renourishment in Point Lookout and Lido Beach.
Funding for research of nitrogen-removing septic systems, anti-Southern pine beetle efforts, programs to reduce pesticide use and lab facilities to test for drinking-water contaminants are also included in the overall spending plan.
Requiring large institutions to recycle food waste and an initiative to protect and enhance forest lands did not make it into the final version of the budget bills.
Basil Seggos, commissioner of the state Department of Environmental Conservation, said, though, the funding for projects on Long Island was encouraging in an “austerity budget year” when the state is facing a $4.4 billion deficit.
“The fact that so much was dedicated to the environment, it shows the commitment of the governor,” Seggos said.
Many of the items — $2 million for the Central Pine Barrens Commission, $900,000 for the Long Island South Shore Estuary Reserve and $200,000 for the Peconic Estuary Program — were funded through the $300 million Environmental Protection Fund, or EPF, a fund in the overall budget created in 1993 dedicated to environmental initiatives.
“We’re very pleased with the environmental allocation in the EPF,” said Adrienne Esposito, executive director of the Farmingdale-based Citizens Campaign for the Environment. “Long Island got some critical funding for necessary projects.”
The Bay Park Sewage Treatment Plant, which was knocked offline during the 2012 superstorm and is still operating mostly on generators, is slated to get $5 million in reappropriated funds for sewer connections, nitrogen-removal treatment and costs associated with Nassau County plans to connect Bay Park to an existing outfall pipe at Cedar Creek Wastewater Treatment Plant.
The East Rockaway plant has received more than $800 million in federal money for restoration and upgrades since Sandy. Connecting Bay Park to Cedar Creek is an integral part of county plans to divert effluent, which now flows into Reynolds Channel and has increased nitrogen loading in the Western Bays, damaging water quality.
“We’re very grateful to the state for any help they can give,” Nassau County Executive Laura Curran told Newsday.
The budget also includes funding for other high-profile antipollution efforts. In addition to $3 million for Suffolk County and Stony Brook University to research ways to reduce nitrogen flowing from cesspools and septic systems, Stony Brook’s Center for Clean Water Technology will also get $1 million to research ways to remove from drinking water 1,4-dioxane, a probable carcinogen that is unregulated and found in trace amounts throughout Long Island’s groundwater. The facility will also get $500,000 for new laboratory facilities to test for perfluorinated compounds, another unregulated contaminant found locally.
The final budget also includes $250,000 to study the feasibility of building a storm-surge barrier along the South Shore.
“A sea gate study is absolutely critical if we want to protect our homes and families from another superstorm Sandy,” Assemb. Christine Pellegrino (D-West Islip) said in a news release. “Too many lives, businesses and properties are at stake.”
The Long Island Commission for Aquifer Protection received $200,000 to maintain its online program WaterTraq, which provides water quality testing data, as well as $250,000 authorized in last year’s budget but not appropriated.
“When people learn about WaterTraq, they tend to use it to educate themselves about groundwater threats and how water suppliers address these threats and supply safe drinking water,” said LICAP vice chairman Jeffrey W. Szabo, who is also CEO of the Suffolk County Water Authority. “And when people educate themselves on these important issues, it bodes well for the long-term protection of our water supply.”