Governor Cuomo Announces Actions to Strengthen Coastal Resiliency Against Future Storms on Long Island

Press Release

Governor Andrew M. Cuomo today announced a series of actions to bolster coastal resiliency against future storms on Long Island by improving local water quality and reducing harmful nitrogen pollution. Superstorm Sandy significantly impacted Long Island's wastewater treatment facilities and highlighted how vulnerable the region's bays and salt marshes are to excessive nitrogen pollution. To help address these recovery needs, Governor Cuomo announced the State has identified $383 million in funding for proposed sewer projects in Suffolk County and that the State will advance $97 million to Nassau County for upgrades to the Bay Park sewage treatment plant.

To help further ensure that the best available science and best practices exist to support resiliency and water quality improvement efforts, Governor Cuomo also announced the establishment of the New York State Center for Clean Water Technology at Stony Brook University -- initially tasked with developing and commercializing the next generation of nitrogen removal technology for on-site septic systems and cesspools.

"Superstorm Sandy showed us how important coastal resiliency is to helping Long Island communities withstand the impact of extreme weather. Today we're acting on that lesson and strengthening our natural defenses against future storms," Governor Cuomo said. "I want to thank the many stakeholders who contributed to making these ideas a reality -- including County Executive Bellone, County Executive Mangano and Supervisor Throne-Holst -- because they are helping to build a safer, stronger and more resilient Long Island."

All of these initiatives will help to continue strengthening Long Island's wastewater treatment systems and reduce nitrogen pollution, which will help protect and improve coastal resiliency. Nitrogen pollution damages coastal marshlands that are a critical line of defense against severe storms and flooding.

$383 Million for Suffolk County Projects

Governor Cuomo today identified up to $383 million for four proposed resiliency and water quality projects to extend sewers in Suffolk County in four areas, which County Executive Bellone advanced. Subject to federal approval, the State has identified up to $300 million in Community Development Block Grant Disaster Recovery funding and $83 million to be financed through low-interest loans from the Clean Water State Revolving Fund administered by the New York State Environmental Facilities Corporation and the Department of Environmental Conservation.

The extension of sewers to these areas is an important step to help Suffolk County recover from Superstorm Sandy and will dramatically jump start a comprehensive effort to reduce nitrogen pollution that adversely affects coastal wetlands that protect communities from damaging storms and are critical to the region's economic and environmental health. The proposed projects include:

1. Forge River Watershed centered around Mastic: An estimated $196 million project would address storm impacts and reduce extensive nitrogen pollution to the Forge River and Great South Bay. The proposed project would connect parcels in the area to a new sewer collection system that will flow to a new wastewater treatment plant (that would include nitrogen treatment) located on municipal property near the Brookhaven Town Airport.

2. Carlls River Watershed centered around North Babylon and West Babylon: An estimated $136 million project would address storm impacts and reduce nitrogen and pathogen pollution in the Carlls River and Great South Bay. The proposed project would connect parcels to the Bergen Point sewer system within the Southwest Sewer District.

3. Connequot River Watershed centered around Great River: An estimated $33 million would be used to address nitrogen pollution and pathogens in Connetquot River, Nicoll Bay and Great South Bay. The proposed project would connect parcels to the Bergen Point sewer system.

4. Patchogue River Watershed centered around Patchogue: An estimated $18 million would be used to address nitrogen and pathogen pollution in Patchogue River and Great South Bay. The proposed project would connect parcels to the Patchogue sewer system within the Patchogue Sewer District.

Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone said, "Suffolk County saw firsthand how devastating extreme weather can be in Superstorm Sandy. With that in mind, we are continuing to build back from that damage and make our infrastructure more resilient for the future, and I am very pleased that we are kicking off a series of actions that will bolster coastal resiliency against future storms. By strengthening our wastewater treatment facilities and reducing harmful nitrogen pollution, we can improve water quality on Long Island and ultimately create safer communities for our residents. I appreciate the Governor's constant support as we continue to rebuild, and I am very excited to get these projects up and running."

$97 Million Advance to Nassau County for Bay Park Upgrades

The State will advance $97 million to Nassau County to help expedite upgrades at the Bay Park sewage treatment plant. The state funding is an advance on the $830 million in federal funds Governor Cuomo helped secure to repair elements of the Bay Park plant's treatment and collection system, and to achieve an engineered resiliency against a 500-year storm. The Governor is continuing to press his request to the Federal Emergency Management Agency for public assistance funds to create an outfall well out into the Atlantic Ocean and to install a mid-stage nitrogen treatment system to improve water quality in the back-bay, and protect extensive marsh islands in that area that serve as natural flood protection barriers for southern Nassau County.

Nassau County Executive Ed Mangano said, "In addition to devastating homes and businesses across Nassau County, Superstorm Sandy caused tremendous damage to some of our most vital infrastructure -- which as we learned, can make a bad situation even worse very quickly. The Bay Park Wastewater Treatment Plant is the perfect example of that. The facility was inundated with nine feet of sea water during Sandy, causing power failure and environmental damage. Today, we are taking another crucial step forward to not only repair the damage that was done, but make the Bay Park plant stronger and more resilient than ever before. I am thankful for the Governor's support on this issue -- making state funding available now."

New York State Center for Clean Water Technology

Currently, technology does not exist to effectively remove nitrogen from septic system and cesspool effluent in an effective and cost-efficient manner. These are the major sources of nitrogen that is polluting Suffolk County's waterways and destroying protective wetland habitat that is vital to improving storm resiliency. Stony Brook University's New York State Center for Clean Water Technology will research, develop and commercialize the next generation of technology to remove nitrogen from septic system and cesspool effluent. The Center will establish New York State as a global leader in this industry as this technology could help communities on Long Island, across the nation and around the world address this issue.

Governor Cuomo, Suffolk County and Stony Brook University have agreed to designate $2 million from this year's budget as initial seed money to establish the Center as part of a larger long-term initiative. Stony Brook University will dispatch the appropriate human capital resources including research faculty and graduate students, and designate laboratory facilities to anchor the work to research projects needed to move the initiative forward.

Southampton Town Supervisor Anna Throne-Holst said, "Healthy natural wetland habitats are crucial barriers against the coastal erosion and infrastructure devastation of major storms - keeping them healthy is essential. Reducing harmful nitrogen pollution is one of the best ways to do that, and by establishing the Center for Clean Water Technology at Stony Brook University, we can develop better technology to remove this pollution more effectively and efficiently. I'm proud that Stony Brook will be a leader in this field, and I want to thank Governor Cuomo for supporting this vision, which will help our community and many others for years down the road."

Samuel L. Stanley Jr., M.D., President, Stony Brook University, said, "Stony Brook University is committed to this extremely important initiative that, through research and technology transfer, will help identify and establish new resources to improve water quality on Long Island for the near- and long-term. We thank Governor Cuomo for this financial and environmental commitment, and for entrusting this important piece of the puzzle to Stony Brook University. Thanks to that commitment, I'm confident that our students and faculty will make significant contributions to this initiative."

Long Island Water Quality Report

The State today also released a report that identifies immediate and long-term steps to address excess nitrogen pollution that causes the degradation or collapse of coastal wetlands that provide natural storm defenses and numerous water quality problems. Governor Cuomo directed the state Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) to work with state agencies, Suffolk County, Nassau County, Stony Brook University, and a host of civic, environmental and business leaders to develop the report.

As part of that initiative, state leaders, along with Nassau County Executive Ed Mangano and Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone hosted three public meetings in Nassau and Suffolk counties in May to discuss Long Island wastewater management and clean water infrastructure. These sessions included presentations by 40 scientists; federal, state and local officials; community, business and environmental organizations; and also provided an opportunity for the public to share their experience, ideas and concerns. The report is the culmination of independent research and strategies presented at these meetings. A copy of the report is available here.

Senator Charles E. Schumer said, "This is exactly the type of smart investment that we intended for Long Island through the Sandy relief bill, and I'm pleased that federal CDBG and other funding will help fortify Long Island's sewer and water treatment systems, as well as build up the coastline to protect against future storms. I will continue to fight for federal dollars to ensure that both Nassau and Suffolk County communities, and their infrastructure, are stronger and more resilient if, God forbid, the next Sandy makes landfall on the region."

Congressman Peter King said, "The combination of federal and state and resources will not only strengthen Long Island's resiliency to events like Superstorm Sandy but improve water quality and encourage innovation."

Congresswoman Carolyn McCarthy said, "Two years ago, Superstorm Sandy showed all of us how much work New York had to do to improve our wastewater treatment infrastructure to protect against future storm damage. I applaud Governor Cuomo for pulling together funding that will upgrade wastewater treatment plants in the New York City area and will also improve coastal resiliency by reducing nitrogen pollution. Protecting our valuable bays and salt marshes from excessive nitrogen pollution will help limit damage when Long Island and New York face storms like Sandy."

Congressman Steve Israel said, "Ensuring superior water quality on Long Island is important to our communities. As we prepare for future storms and bolster our resiliency, I am pleased that all levels of government are working together to improve and strengthen our infrastructure."

Congressman Tim Bishop said, "Meeting the critical water infrastructure needs of local communities is an important issue and one that will benefit the residents of Suffolk, the local economy, and protect public health and environment. Communities that cannot upgrade and expand water infrastructure will find it harder to attract new business, build homes, and grow. Ensuring the resiliency of these infrastructure improvements is equally important during natural disasters, and I'm glad this is a component that has been included. I'm proud to have worked with local and state officials at various stages of both these initiatives. Improving water quality in the Forge River Watershed will benefit residents and businesses in the Mastic area and expanding access to sewers in Patchogue with help continue the incredible growth we've seen there. As a principal author of the Water Resources Reform and Development Act, I'm proud to have led the effort to reauthorize the Clean Water State Revolving Fund for the first time since its creation in the 1980s and provide additional tools to help states and municipalities take on important clean water infrastructure project. These important provisions of WRRDA will have a significant and positive impact in Suffolk County."

DEC Commissioner Joe Martens said, "Long Island's unique geography greatly contributes to the quality of life for residents but also presents environmental challenges. Governor Cuomo directed DEC to work with local officials, experts and the public to develop an aggressive action agenda to improve Long Island's coastal resiliency and protect groundwater and surface waters. We appreciate the science-based guidance we received from individuals and organizations during our meetings, which helped us develop numerous specific recommendations to help protect residents, farms and businesses from major storms and flooding, sea level rise and the impacts of nitrogen pollution."

Jamie Rubin, Executive Director of the Governor's Office of Storm Recovery, said, "As we continue to work toward a stronger, more resilient State, we must seek out innovative solutions that protect our most critically important resources. These proposed projects are located in one of the counties most heavily impacted by Superstorm Sandy. We must not only restore and rebuild wastewater facilities that were impacted but also preserve and safeguard drinking water for residents of Long Island, while demonstrating numerous environmental and economic benefits. An important component of our recovery from Sandy is not only rebuilding the areas but utilizing the skills of our people. The New York State Center for Clean Water Technology at Stony Brook University can assist us with that recovery and leave behind a legacy that can benefit other regions. Through the Center for Clean Water Technology and our emphasis on community planning processes we will come back better than ever before."

EFC President and CEO Matthew Driscoll said, "Engineers and finance experts from the New York State Environmental Facilities Corp. have been working with officials in Nassau and Suffolk counties to utilize the financial resources provided by New York's State Revolving Loan fund. Earlier this year, EFC approved $12.7 million in low-cost financing to reduce nitrogen discharges from Riverhead wastewater treatment facility and we look forward to making additional financing available for additional infrastructure projects on Long Island."