Officials broke ground Monday on a $12-million expansion of the Patchogue wastewater treatment facility they say is critical to the South Shore community's economic growth.
The project will increase the 84-year-old sewer plant's capacity from 500,000 to 800,000 gallons per day, Patchogue village Mayor Paul Pontieri said. The work will also more than double the size of the 4,000-square-foot plant, which is located off West Avenue.
Pontieri and a battery of other politicians trumpeted the expansion as a key component of continued rebuilding in Patchogue, where the downtown recently has seen new business and residential growth after years of blight.
"Without the sewer plant, the affordable housing doesn't happen. Restaurants on Main Street, they don't happen," Pontieri said.
"The expansion allows us to take on larger projects and be more aggressive in bringing development into the village."
The project, which is under way, is expected to take about 18 months to complete, he said.
The expansion will be funded with a hodgepodge of state and federal funds, including more than $5.4 million from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act and more than $1.7 million in state Department of Environmental Conservation grants.
The village must also kick in $676,000 and repay a 30-year, $4.2-million state Environmental Facilities Corp. loan.
The village will repay those debts with sewer district taxes, Pontieri said.
Funding for the project became a source of controversy in May when aides to U.S. Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) told Pontieri he wouldn't get expected federal money this year because of earmark limitations.
The state Environmental Facilities Corp. later signed off on a deal to halve a $5.2-million stimulus grant to a Brookhaven Empire Zone industrial park and give that money to Patchogue's sewage plant instead.
At Monday's ribbon-cutting, Schumer said he felt state and federal officials were smart to "work out an agreement to ensure Patchogue got the money it needed to kick-start this project."
Schumer added that "this was a tough process. "
State Sen. Brian Foley (D-Blue Point), Rep. Tim Bishop (D-Southampton) and Democratic Brookhaven Supervisor Mark Lesko, who worked on the agreement that split the Brookhaven stimulus money, also attended.
Foley called the expansion "a very important component of the overall efforts to revitalize the village."
The expansion project's engineer is Holzmacher, McLendon & Murrell P.C. of Melville.