10.15.15

SCHUMER CALLS TOP FEMA OFFICIAL TO INTENSIFY PUSH FOR FEDS TO FULLY FUND CRITICAL REPAIRS FOR KINGSTON’S SEWAGE TREATMENT PLANT FLOODED BY HURRICANE SANDY – FEDS APPROVED INITIAL COST ESTIMATE FOR REPAIRS, BUT ADDITIONAL DAMAGE WAS DISCOVERED & MORE THAN TRIPLED THE PRICE TAG; SCHUMER URGES FEMA TO EXPEDITE PROCESS & COVER ADDITIONAL REPAIR COSTS

Hurricane Sandy Flooded Kingston’s Sewage Treatment Plant, Causing Significant Damage To Electrical Equipment & Undermining The Long-Term Viability of The Facility – In 2014, FEMA Agreed to Cover Costs of Close to $2M for Necessary Repairs & Upgrades, But Damage Discovered Later Tripled Project’s Scope

 

Now That NYS Has Submitted Formal Application, Schumer Makes Call to Top FEMA Official, Urging Feds Expedite Process & Cover Maximum Possible Amount – In January, Schumer Called on FEMA to Help Kingston Cover Full Costs of Project That Would Replace Parts of Electrical System & Raise Equipment to Avoid Future Damage from Rondout Creek Flooding

 

Schumer to FEMA: Feds Should Help Kingston Shoulder Costs For Damaged Sewage Treatment Plant

 

Following the required submission of amended applications for aid by Kingston and New York State, U.S. Senator Charles E. Schumer today renewed his push to have the federal government provide the maximum possible amount in funding to help the City of Kingston make critical repairs to and increase the resiliency of its sewage treatment plant, which was severely damaged during Hurricane Sandy. Schumer made a phone call to top Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) official, Regional Administrator Jerome Hatfield, to urge FEMA to expedite the process needed to make this project a reality. Schumer explained that original estimates put the cost of repairing electrical cables, elevating equipment and making other necessary repairs at approximately $2 million, and FEMA agreed to cover most of that cost. However, a later site visit revealed more damage to the plant and the need for more repairs than initially accounted for, raising the total project price tag. During a January visit, Schumer urged FEMA to re-consider Kingston’s application for federal funding in light of the cost increase and revise the amount FEMA will cover. Now that NY State has formally submitted the City of Kingston’s application to FEMA for consideration, Schumer renewed his push to get this repair project fully funded and underway as soon as possible.

“Now that the amended application has been submitted, I called FEMA Regional Administrator Hatfield to urge FEMA to approve the full-funding Kingston needs for this severely damaged plant ASAP,” said Senator Schumer. “Additional FEMA funding to help cover the cost of this repair overhaul is the final piece of the puzzle when it comes to ensuring this wastewater treatment plant is capable keeping our waterways clean and withstanding future storms. This funding is sorely needed so Kingston taxpayers are not left holding the bag for millions in repair costs. That is exactly why I called Regional Administrator Hatfield – because we need to keep this project moving forward do it does not get caught up in red tape when the City needs it most.”

Schumer explained that the City of Kingston’s wastewater treatment plant suffered significant damage during Superstorm Sandy. The treatment plant sits along the Rondout Creek, which flooded during the storm, ruining equipment, causing damage to electrical systems and causing the plant to go offline for several hours. Schumer explained that original estimates in 2014 put the cost of repairing electrical cables and elevating equipment at approximately $2.2 million, and FEMA agreed to cover 90 percent of that cost through the Public Assistance (PA) Grant Program.

However, after further evaluations, additional damage was discovered at the plant. This required a new application for funds to be submitted to FEMA by New York state and Kingston, which was recently accomplished this month. Due to the need to get power up and running at the facility as quickly as possible after the storm, most equipment was only wiped clean and vacuumed in the immediate aftermath, instead of going through a thorough tear down and inspection process. Because of this, the wastewater treatment plant staff has reported an increased failure rate with many pieces of equipment that were partially or fully submerged in the floodwaters. Schumer said this has led to the need for additional repairs, which along with a hazard mitigation proposal to ensure that the facility is more resilient in the future has raised the price tag for the project, leaving the City of Kingston with millions in repair costs to cover.

Schumer said that without funding from FEMA, this critical repair project could stall and undermine the long-term viability of the sewage treatment plant. That is why – now that NY State has formally submitted the City of Kingston’s request for additional funds – Schumer has renewed his push for FEMA to cover the additional repair costs. To reiterate how important this project is for the City of Kingston, Schumer made a call to top FEMA official, Regional Administrator Hatfield. During the call, Schumer pushed FEMA to expeditiously consider the city’s application for PA funding so that it might help cover these costs, which have more than tripled.

During his initial visit to Kingston in January 2015 to advocate for this project, Schumer urged FEMA to cover the maximum possible amount through the PA program. He did this in a letter to FEMA Administrator W. Craig Fugate. While FEMA agreed to fund approximately $2 million, the City needs additional funding to cover the cost of later discovered damage and to implement a plan to make the facility more resilient. Schumer said with additional federal funds, Kingston would be able to replace electrical cables and raise equipment in order to ensure generators and other critical equipment does not become submerged in floodwaters and become damaged from future Rondout Creek flooding. The city’s plan would provide the plant with an increased level of flood protection, a more robust and simplified electrical system, and more resilient facilities.

With the additional PA funds, the Kingston Wastewater Treatment Plant would be able return to its pre-storm state of performance, with increased resiliency and emergency backup in the event of the next storm. The City of Kingston has said that many of the original repairs that were going to be made with the initial $2.2 million will require further upgrades to other parts of the plant that would not work properly as a result of the repairs, underlining the need for the federal funds to be increased to the maximum amount so that the entire plant is repaired and brought into compliance with current standards for treating sewage. The additional work needed includes the replacement of the damaged system of electrical cables, replacement of critical pumping equipment and raising equipment, like generators, to avoid future damage. Schumer explained that FEMA PA funds from Superstorm Sandy typically cover 90 percent of the cost to a municipality.

Schumer explained that the plant is currently still in use but, due to the increased failure of equipment around the plant as a result of the flooding, its overall effectiveness could be severely hindered if these repairs and upgrades are not made soon. The Kingston Wastewater Treatment Plant is the only plant for the entire city and serves approximately 30,000 people. Most of the plant was built in the 1940s and it is upgraded roughly every 10 years. The dry weather capacity of the plant is 6.8 million gallons and wet weather capacity is 10.2 million gallons.

 

A copy of Senator Schumer’s original letter to FEMA appears below:

 

Dear Administrator Fugate: 

I write you today in support of the City of Kingston’s application for an additional $4.4 million in funding under the Public Assistance program to repair the Kingston Wastewater Treatment Plant (NY-4085-PW-02506(0)). As you know, the wastewater treatment plant suffered significant damage during Superstorm Sandy. The treatment plant sits along the Rondout Creek, which flooded during the storm, ruining equipment, causing damage to electrical systems, and causing the plant to go offline for several hours.

I thank you for your attention to the $2.2 million that has already been awarded to this project; that funding will go a long way toward helping the city rebuild this critical piece of infrastructure. As you know, however, during a later evaluation, additional damage was discovered at the wastewater treatment plant. Due to the need to get power up and running at the facility as quickly as possible after the storm, most equipment was only wiped clean and vacuumed in the immediate aftermath, instead of going through a thorough tear down and inspection process. Staff at the wastewater treatment plant have noticed an increased failure rate with many pieces of equipment that were partially or fully submerged from the floodwaters.

The City has developed a cost-effective plan to repair the damage to the Kingston Wastewater Treatment Plant. Their plan will provide the plant with an increased level of flood protection, a more robust and simplified electrical system, and more resilient facilities. With its Public Assistance grant increased to $6.7 million, the Kingston Wastewater Treatment Plant will be able return to its pre-storm state of performance, with increased resiliency and emergency backup in the event of the next storm.

I sincerely hope the City of Kingston’s application for increased Public Assistance funding meets with your approval. Should you have any questions, please do not hesitate to contact me or my staff.

 

Sincerely,

 

Charles E. Schumer

United States Senator

 

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