SUFFOLK COUNTY APPLIES FOR $50 MILLION IN WATER QUALITY FUNDING THROUGH THE LONG ISLAND REGIONAL ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT COUNCIL

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State Funding Would Replace Nearly 5,000 Cesspools Across Suffolk County

County Executive Bellone:  “Long Island is the second most popular tourism destination in the State our water quality is essential to this multi-billion dollar industry.” 

Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone today announced that Suffolk County has submitted a multi-jurisdictional funding request for $50 million dollars on behalf of a coalition of ten towns in the county to provide a partial grant incentive for homeowners to replace failing cesspools with advanced wastewater treatment systems.  This request would provide critical funding for the replacement of approximately 5,000 cesspools across Suffolk County with Innovative Alternative systems to effectively treat for nitrogen pollution that is a contributor to the water quality crisis.

“Long Island is the second most popular tourism destination in the State and our water quality is essential to this multi-billion dollar industry,” said Suffolk County Executive Bellone.  “Governor Cuomo has been a national leader in protecting water quality, and Suffolk County joins him in taking aggressive action to combat nitrogen pollution without breaking the bank for homeowners.”

Suffolk County has submitted a Consolidated Funding Application through the Long Island Regional Economic Development Council.  The unique request on behalf of all ten towns will maximize the chances to obtain as much state funding as possible, since a maximum grant available per municipality is $5 million dollars.  The funding would be distributed equally among all participating towns. The application is supported by all ten towns and a diverse coalition of stakeholders including the Long Island Builders Institute, Citizens Campaign for the Environment, and The Nature Conservancy.

This project implements the preliminary recommendations of Governor Cuomo’s Long Island Nitrogen Action Plan initiative, which will be guided by scientific data generated by the Suffolk County Subwatersheds plan while leveraging the locally established Community Preservation Fund for water quality.

The state funding is made available through the Water Quality Improvement Project (WQIP) program which is administered by the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation.  The program is a competitive, statewide reimbursement grant program open to local governments and not-for-profit corporations for implementation projects that directly address documented water quality impairments or protect a drinking water source.  

Long Island is the second most popular tourist destination in New York State after New York City. According to the Trust for Public Land, tourism is one of Long Island’s largest industries, producing revenues of $4.7 billion per year, with approximately 28% of its 5.1 million visitors coming for the purpose of visiting parks that include beaches.  These visitors spend $615 million annually in the local economy and generate $27.3 million in sales tax revenue across Long Island.

In July 2017, Suffolk County launched the first-in-the-state Septic Improvement Program to provide grant funding to eligible homeowners to replace septic systems and cesspools. Homeowners can apply for grants of up to $10,000 to offset the expense of purchasing and installing an innovative and alternative, nitrogen-reducing, onsite wastewater system.  These state-of-the-art types of systems typically cost between $15,000 and $20,000. An additional $1,000 in grant money may be available for residents wishing to install optional pressurized shallow drainfields, used to improve distribution of wastewater from the systems. 

Homeowners may also qualify to finance the remaining cost of the systems over 15 years at a low 3% fixed interest rate, potentially providing the homeowner with no initial out-of-pocket costs and payments of only $50 per month. By contrast, a conventional septic system would cost homeowners $8,000 out of pocket and would not provide the improved performance or longer life span that the state-of-the-art advanced wastewater systems have demonstrated to provide.

In order to receive the grant, the property owner’s income must be less than $300,000 a year for the full grant, or $500,000 a year for half of the grant.  Preferential consideration will be given to properties in environmentally sensitive areas, and systems which are in failure – such as requiring two or more pumpouts required in the past year. To be considered, the residence must be single-family and the homeowner’s primary year–round home.

The Septic Improvement Program falls under the auspice of County Executive Bellone’s Reclaim Our Water initiative that was launched in 2014.

Suffolk County, which has a population larger than 11 states and a region that derives its drinking water from a sole source acquirer, must pay particular attention to the 360,000 septic/cesspools in Suffolk County, accounting for well over 75% of the homes.  These are particularly problematic in areas with higher water tables and in close proximity to surface waters.   County experts estimate that there are over approximately 250,000 sanitary systems that pre-date the requirement for a septic system. 


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