Suffolk lawmakers approve nearly $ 400 million in new sewer projects
Two long-awaited sewer projects passed their final legislative hurdles on Tuesday as Suffolk County lawmakers approved bills that will see Suffolk’s largest sewer expansion in decades to go from l ‘before, County Executive Steve Bellone’s office announced.
The Carlls River project in Babylon Town and the Forge River project in Mastic-Shirley are slated to open later this month and will connect more than 4,220 properties to the sewer service, the Bellone office said.
The projects, approved by referendum in 2019, are part of Suffolk County’s Coastal Resilience Initiative that will eventually connect more than 5,500 homes to sewer service.
The legislation approved Tuesday allows Suffolk County to accept more than $ 230 million in federal funding that received final approval from the Federal Emergency Management Agency last week, officials said.
“Today marks a historic day for water quality here in Suffolk County as we finally push these long-awaited sewage projects through the finish line,” Bellone said in a statement Tuesday evening. .
“These projects are a major victory for the people of Long Island and an important step forward in our continued efforts to ensure that future generations enjoy the bays, harbor and beaches that make Suffolk County special,” said Bellone. .
“This is the start of one of the most significant infrastructure improvements in the county,” Legis said. Jason Richberg (D-West Babylon), whose district is about to bring sewage through the Carlls River project.
The sewer projects, which will cost a total of $ 383 million, are designed to improve water quality by removing obsolete septic tanks and sumps that contribute to nitrogen pollution of local waterways.
About 75% of houses in Suffolk, or around 360,000, are not connected to sewers, county officials said.
The legislation approved on Tuesday will free up funds for the Carlls River and Forge River projects and allow officials to award construction contracts, officials said.
The county’s sewer projects were threatened earlier this year due to rising costs.
But an influx of federal pandemic aid bolstered the county’s finances, allowing Suffolk to close funding gaps for the Forge River project and connect nearly 1,500 properties in the South West Sewer District to the service. .
The Forge River project will connect 1,889 homes and 150 businesses through a new sewer district at an expected cost of $ 225.7 million, county officials said.
The county will contribute $ 42 million towards the cost as part of a $ 100 million sewer program announced by Bellona on Earth Day in April.
Landowners connected to sewers will pay an average of $ 470 per year in sewer taxes and maintenance fees to the Forge River District, officials said.
The $ 157 million Carlls River project will expand the Southwest Sewer District to connect 2,184 homes to North Babylon, West Babylon, Deer Park, Wyandanch and Wheatley Heights.
Landowners will pay $ 532 per year, county officials said.
Construction on both projects will continue until 2024.
US Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (DN.Y.), who helped secure federal funding for the projects, said “the county’s lack of modern sewer infrastructure” allows pollution waterways and “threatens public health and sustainable growth”.
County officials are putting these funds “to good use by modernizing the Suffolk sewage system,” Schumer said.
County officials, environmentalists, business groups and labor leaders said on Tuesday that the Carlls River and Forge River projects would improve water quality, protect water infrastructure from worsening storms and create jobs.
“This major achievement is both a significant benefit to our environment and our economic development and one that will change the nature of our county in a positive way,” said Mitch Pally, CEO of the Long Island Builders Institute.
The sewer projects approved on Tuesday were part of a longstanding effort by Bellona to tackle nitrogen pollution, which it called “public enemy number 1”.
Bellone, a Democrat, blamed algae blooms, fish kills and other water quality problems to the pollution.
Suffolk County began planning the Coastal Resilience Initiative, aimed at strengthening coastal areas against storms, in 2015.
After Super Storm Sandy in 2012, the county won federal grants to help rebuild communities and reduce future damage from storms.
Officials said replacing sumps and septic tanks in low-lying areas of the south coast would reduce nitrogen pollution, strengthening the wetlands that protect the coasts.
Presidential Officer Robert Calarco (D-Patchogue) said officials are also working to extend the sewers in Patchogue Village. The project is another element of the Coastal Resilience Initiative.
Also on Tuesday, lawmakers approved resolutions to amend Bellona’s 2022-2024 capital budget project.
The $ 1.14 billion budget, tabled on July 30, includes funding for the preservation of farmland, the creation of a body-worn camera program and new sewer infrastructure.
The legislature amended 30 capital programs and created or added seven more, the Legislature Budget Review Office said.
An additional program will provide $ 3 million to the county electoral board to expand early voting to 26 locations, as required by New York State.
Early voting begins on October 23.
Bellone spokesman Derek Poppe said the administration was reviewing changes to the capital budget.
- The legislator approved a measure by Legis. Kara Hahn (D-Setauket) to study the conversion of vacant county park land into community or pollinator gardens.
- Lawmakers approved a measure, sponsored by Legis. Tom Cilmi (R-Bay Shore) and Legis. Bridget Fleming (D-Noyac), who would force authorities to use any budget surplus to pay down pension debt in 2021 and 2022. Early repayment of all amortized pension obligations would save the county $ 14 million up to in 2033, according to a copy of the resolution.
- Lawmakers also voted to establish a registry of county beekeepers that residents can contact to help eliminate the hives, and to designate July 16 as Harry Chapin Day to honor the late singer-songwriter who founded Long Island Cares. Inc.