WEST BABYLON, NY – Suffolk County Legislator Jason Richberg was recently joined by elected officials from local and state government for a press conference at Belmont Lake State Park in West Babylon urging the federal government to add infrastructure money to any COVID recovery bill and to extend the expenditure deadline for ongoing sewer projects.
Nearly 70% of Suffolk County is not sewered, and many homes are still using aging cesspools and septic systems. Residents in communities across Suffolk have been waiting nearly 50 years to be connected to sewers, and help is needed from Congress to push these various voter-approved, large-scale sewer projects over the finish line.
“Suffolk County is home to over 1.5 million people and covers more than 600,000 acres. One of the great benefits to living here in Suffolk is that we have access to scenic, pristine waterways like Belmont Lake, the Great South Bay, our North and South Shore beaches, lakes and rivers. The health of our waterways affects our groundwater, which is our only source of drinking water,” said Legislator Richberg. “Over the past few years, we’ve seen more and more reports of nitrogen and other contaminants in our waterways. The inconvenient fact is that the state of these waterways is directly tied to our wastewater management. Expansion of Suffolk County’s sewage infrastructure is essential to preserving our environment, providing our communities with job opportunities and keeping our drinking water safe. The lack of sewers is damaging to our environment, our aquifer and our economy.”
After Superstorm Sandy, through a bi-partisan effort, elected officials were able to secure Community Development Block Grant Disaster Recovery funding through the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) and the Hazard Mitigation Grant Program (HMGP) that were essential to making the historic undertaking of recovering from Sandy possible. Sewer projects were planned to address storm impacts and reduce nitrogen and pathogen pollution in our waterways, and public votes were held to gauge community interest. These voter-approved, large-scale sewer projects are now “shovel ready” to connect nearly 6,000 homes to sewers, including our vulnerable south shore and along river corridors in the towns of Babylon, Islip and Brookhaven. However, with the COVID crisis impacting every aspect of our lives, the projects have slowed to a crawl, and many are in danger of losing their funding.
“As elected officials who represent districts greatly affected by global climate change, we know the importance of resiliency projects,” said New York State Senator Phil Boyle. “We cannot allow short-term financial difficulties to derail significant projects that will protect our constituents in the long term.” “Long Island prides itself on its pristine waterways and clean drinking water, but the future viability of these natural resources are contingent on us taking active measures to protect and improve their quality,” said NYS Assemblywoman Kimberly Jean-Pierre. “With budget cuts threatening critical infrastructure projects like the expansion of our sewer system and other steps to enhance our environment, it is more important than ever for the federal government to include funding for these essential needs to help protect Long Island’s quality of life for generations to come.” “On behalf of Deputy Supervisor Tony Martinez and the rest of the Town Board, I fully support Legislator Richberg’s call on the federal government to fund infrastructure programs with any further COVID-19 relief bills,” said Town of Babylon Supervisor Rich Schaffer. “As town government officials, we saw the effects of the outbreak of COVID-19 firsthand, especially the shutdown of many critical road and development projects in our area. It is imperative that these initiatives do not get left behind due to the expiration of funding options. We join Legislator Richberg in formally asking for assistance to continue this important work.” “It is time for the federal government to step up and support our local sewer infrastructure projects. The quality of our water cannot be a matter of debate, and must be a priority,” said Suffolk County Legislature Presiding Officer Rob Calarco. “From issues of storm resiliency, environmental health, and water quality the residents I represent know firsthand the effects that these delays from Washington have caused. Our elected officials in D.C. must act now, and fund these critical projects.” “The Carll's River Sewer Project has long been on the wish list of those who work to sewer Suffolk County,” said Wayne Horsley, former Long Island Regional Director of NYS Parks and Recreation. “By offering sewers to those houses north of the Southern State Parkway in high water table areas, you will see a huge reduction in nitrogen in the Great South Bay. Not only will we assist our residents but go a long way to saving the Great South Bay” “The importance of protecting our surface waters from nitrogen contamination cannot be overstated. Replacing cesspools with sewers is the best way of accomplishing this,” said Suffolk County Legislator Kevin McCaffrey. “I am proud to support those efforts and I call on the Federal government to extend the time to use Community Development Block Grants to fund pending sewer projects and free up more funds for sewer expansion.” “The Forge River Watershed Sewer District has the potential to be the largest and most significant infrastructure project for the communities of Mastic, Mastic Beach, and Shirley,” said Suffolk County Legislator Rudy Sunderman. “We have the potential to eliminate nearly 2,000 cesspools from the Forge River watershed, which has been identified as the largest source of nitrogen pollution to this environmentally sensitive water body. This project is heavily reliant upon the extension of the grants from the federal government and I stand united with my colleagues on this issue, so we can move forward and work towards the construction of this immensely important project for the benefit of all the residents that I represent.”
“The Belmont Lake Civic Association has worked tirelessly with our constituents for sewers since the early ’70s,” said Belmont Lake Civic Association President Denise Leary. “Long Island’s groundwater continues to be contaminated causing health and environmental problems for all. I can't fathom further pollution. The construction of the Carlls River Sewer Extension Project must have the green light to start with the timeline our elected officials require.”