Fed $ to Flood- Proof State’s Water Plants

Rebuilds Damage Caused By Sandy

Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo announced that New York State is receiving $340 million in federal funding to undertake floodmitigation projects at wastewater and drinking water plants in communities damaged by Hurricane Sandy.

These efforts are in line with recommendations made by the Governor’s NYS 2100 Commission in January, which included a call to update design standards for wastewater systems and improve long-term maintenance and planning.

“These funds will allow localities across the state to repair vital infrastructure damaged by Superstorm Sandy-as well as to build back smarter and stronger to better withstand future natural disasters and flooding,” Cuomo said. “It is absolutely crucial that we fortify our drinking water and wastewater systems with equipment and features to ensure plants are operational during and after major storms and that the water flowing to the businesses and homes of New Yorkers is safe and protected.”

Based on the populations of disaster declared counties in New York, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has determined that New York will receive $340 million, or 59.7 percent, of the $600 million budgeted for mitigation projects following Hurricane Sandy. New Jersey will be allocated the remaining 40.3 percent of the appropriation.

The overall $600 million was reduced by five percent in the sequestration of federal spending programs.

Wastewater and drinking water facilities impacted by Sandy in 14 New York counties, which serve more than 13 million people, will be eligible for funding, including: Bronx, Greene, Kings, Nassau, New York, Orange, Putnam, Queens, Richmond, Rockland, Suffolk, Sullivan, Ulster and Westchester.

Of the $340 million for New York, $283 million is allocated for wastewater projects and $56.6 million for drinking water facilities.

Working with the EPA, New York State will establish the Storm Mitigation Loan Program, along with standards for the disbursement of the $340 million. This will include rules governing the types of mitigation projects that will be eligible for a combination of interest-free loans and non-reimbursable grants through State Revolving Funds (SRFs). The mitigation funds will be distributed through the New York State Environmental Facilities Corporation (EFC), a public benefit corporation that finances improvements to local drinking water and wastewater systems.

Preliminary information on the Storm Mitigation Loan Program is available on EFC’s website at www.efc.ny.gov.

As called for in the governor’s NYS 2100 Commission report, mitigation projects could include the installation of floodwalls, water-tight doors and back-up generators as well as the relocation of electrical systems and entire treatment facilities out of flood-prone areas.

Among the projects that may eligible for funding are:

– installation of submersible pumps;

– waterproof electrical components such as pump motors;

– installation of back-up generators or alternative energy sources that service critical process equipment;

– projects to block infiltration and correct inflow of water that could lead to flooding of a treatment facility;

– construction of infrastructure to control or divert water to protect waste collection and drinking water distribution systems;

– projects that consider green infrastructure such as the construction of wetlands, sand dunes and detention basins to lessen storm surges at treatment facilities;

– installation of large-capacity storage tanks for chemical treatment and drinking water storage;

– installation of disinfection systems with backup power; and

– elevation of backup generators and other steps to prevent saltwater damage to materials and equipment.

“The goal is to strengthen and fortify our water-quality systems, protecting public health and the environment while also reducing future repair costs from the impacts of future storms and climate change,” said Matthew Driscoll, EFC president and chief executive officer.

“These funds address a critical recommendation of the Governor’s NYS 2100 Commission,” said Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) Commissioner Joe Martens. “By providing the resources necessary to ensure that wastewater treatment plants continue to function during severe storm events, we will provide an extra measure of protection to our state’s waterways and natural resources.”

The EFC administers the nation’s largest and most-successful SRF programs in conjunction with the DEC (for wastewater facilities) and the state Department of Health (for drinking water facilities).

Sandy-related mitigation projects which meet SRF eligibility standards will be eligible for an interest-free loan (for up to 70 percent of a project’s cost) along with a grant for up to 30 percent of the project.

The flooding and storm surges caused by Sandy resulted in more than $1 billion in damage to wastewater treatment plants and the release of raw and undertreated sewage into adjoining waterways highlighted the need to fortify our water-quality systems or move them to areas away from flood hazards. New York State has been working aggressively with local communities to ensure damage is repaired and continues to work with the federal government for reimbursement of these costs.

With these mitigation funds, New York can help communities adapt to extreme storms in the future by providing technical expertise and planning to help local governments create long-term resilience, helping them withstand or avoid higher flood levels expected from future storms and build smarter, better systems.

More from Around New York