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Source: Times Beacon Record

Task force wants $746M for dirty water

County informs feds of sewer upgrade ambitions


Posted: January 24, 2009
Originally Published: January 23, 2009

Hoping to cash in on some of the proposed $775 billion federal stimulus package which Congress hopes to have on President Barack Obama's desk by Thursday, Feb. 12, the Suffolk County Wastewater Task Force has announced 19 sewer-related projects, nine of which would be ready for immediate implementation.

The projects, which total $746 million, are projected to create 36,242 jobs and bring $4.7 billion into the local economy.

Task force member Tom Kehoe said the project list is the culmination of a year's worth of meetings. "These projects were ready long before there was any talk of an economic stimulus package," he said. "It just so happens these projects are ready now and the [president] is talking about making money available for shovel-ready projects."

Brendan Stanton, the spokesman for Task Force chairman Legislator Wayne Horsley (D-Babylon), said all four congressional delegates, Sens. Chuck Schumer and Hillary Clinton, and Reps. Steve Israel and Tim Bishop, asked that the task force send the list to their offices.

Among the task force's nine top priority projects are:

• Expansion of the Huntington sewer district: Increase capacity and prevent leakage and infiltration of unwanted particles. Capacity would increase by 100,000 gallons per day, which translates to business and workforce housing development and environmental improvement. Total cost: $1.55 million.

• Further upgrade the Northport sewage treatment plant: Previously upgraded in 2005, the plant must be improved upon to meet the 2014 permit limit related to the Long Island Sound Plan. Total cost: $7 million.

• Upgrade the Port Jefferson pumping station: Also connect parts of the village and adjacent areas to the recently rebuilt and expanded Suffolk County Sewer District No. 1 Wastewater Treatment Facility. Total cost of $25 million, would include engineering design, environmental approvals and construction management.

• Follow a feasibility study for Smithtown/Kings Park: Recommendations include installation of alternate sewer systems and numerous pumping stations, requiring acquisition of land formerly occupied by the Kings Park Psychiatric Center. Total cost: $40 million.

One of the ten projects in the preplanning stages includes installation of conventional or alternate sewer systems and acquisition of land for recharge in Rocky Point. The total cost, estimated at $60 million, includes planning, design, environmental approvals, inspection and construction management.

Part of Kehoe's work involved approaching Sens. Chuck Schumer and Hillary Clinton and Rep. Israel for funding, only to learn there was none.

"We had projects ready and chose not to raise taxes or even bond for some of them right away," he said. These 19 projects were included in Suffolk County's overall requests for wastewater projects, Kehoe said. "We've got the same requests moving forward in Washington and also in Albany on a couple of different levels. So we're pretty confident that we're going to get funded for it."

Last year, state Sen. Carl Marcellino (R-Syosset) appropriated $500,000 as partial funding for Northport's $3 million project to replace the sewer lines that run into the harbor and pump station.

"The pump station is aging; the sewer lines are aging and we want to get them out of the harbor," said Kehoe, who is also a Northport Village trustee. "This is our number one wastewater project and if we get only partial funding, that would be the number one thing that we would do immediately. We would have to do it either way because it is an accident waiting to happen."

Adrienne Esposito, co-chair of the task force's education and public relations committee and executive director of Citizen's Campaign for the Environment, reported the disparity between the state's overall needs and proposed funding. "The number is not set yet. To us, wastewater treatment needs in New York State alone are $36 billion. ... If they're only putting somewhere between $6 billion and $12 billion for all the states, they've clearly undervalued the importance of wastewater infrastructure."

"These are real needs to solve real problems with real impacts," she added. "Our sewage treatment plants are important for protecting our environment, protecting public health and allowing our local economies to grow."

Right now the treatment plants are discharging into either the bays or groundwater, with the exception of the Bergen Point facility, which discharges into the ocean, she said.

"The bottom line ... is that this is old, antiquated infrastructure ... in desperate need of upgrading, and the federal government's not paying enough attention to it. Roads are more visible, so they're getting more attention, but the sewage treatment plants are very vulnerable and very old."