SCHUMER PRESSES EPA TO IMMEDIATELY ISSUE $20 MILLION IN UNPAID EPA SEWER FUNDS OWED TO NASSAU COUNTY TO FIX ENVIRONMENTAL DISASTER IN REYNOLDS CHANNEL
As Sludge Continues To Flow From Bay Park Sewage Treatment Plant Into Reynolds Channel, Schumer Presses for Funding to Fix Bay Park Sludge Problem - Renews Call On EPA To Reimburse Nassau County 20 Million In Owed FundsLong Overdue Money Will Support Major Plant Upgrades At Bay Park, Preventing Future Leaks and Potential Environmental DisasterSchumer: Nassau Residents Deserve A Swift, Effective EPA Response To Prevent Further Polluting Of Reynolds Channel
U.S. Senator Charles E. Schumer today renewed his call on the EPA to reimburse Nassau County for over $20 million in federal sewer construction funds so that Nassau County can use the funding to permanently fix the sludge leaking from the Bay Park Sewage Treatment Facility into the Reynolds Channel. In October, the DEC discovered that several critical components of the facility were defective, resulting in brown plumes in the Reynolds Channel. In light of this leak, Schumer today wrote a letter to EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson, renewing his call for the EPA to reimburse Nassau County for sewer repairs that were financed two decades ago, so that funds are available for the county to make the necessary repairs to the Bay Park Sewage Treatment Facility.
"Every day the EPA fails to pay the millions it owes Nassau County, Reynolds Channel grows more and more toxic and Nassau taxpayers are more at risk for funding the upgrades needed to fix the problem," Schumer said. "The message to the EPA Headquarters is simple: enough is enough. This is a potential environmental disaster for Nassau residents and the EPA must immediately refund Nassau County to allow it to fund emergency repairs to the Bay Park Sewage Treatment Facility," Schumer said.
Over $20 million worth of grant money was awarded to Nassau County by the EPA in the mid1980s. The awards, administered under the now defunct EPA Sewer Infrastructure program, were reimbursement funds for multimillion dollar upgrades at the Cedar Creek and Bay Park wastewater treatment plants conducted by Nassau County. EPA awarded a grant to the County in 1984 for $7.5 million the upgrade and expansion of wastewater treatment operations in Nassau County, $12 million for architectural and engineering fees, and $2 million for sewer piping. Though EPA Region 2, which covers the Long Island region, has issued an opinion that the county should be reimbursed, those funds have never been administered. In May, Schumer, met with County Executive Edward Mangano and other officials to press the EPA to finally release the funds. Though the EPA agreed to reopen negotiations with the County and recently received additional documentation on the $12 million grant, a decision has still not been rendered on any of the grants.
The County's Bay Park Sewage Treatment Facility is in dire need of an upgrade to its operations to remediate significant effluent discharge. For the past month, Nassau County has struggled to deal with excessive amounts of cloudy effluent or "sludge" being discharged into nearby Reynolds Channel and the Western Bays. The NYS Department of Environmental Conservation cited Nassau County for releasing excessive amounts of suspended solids from the plant in multiple separate incidents and local community groups, boaters, and fishermen have expressed outrage at the amount of sludge flowing through the Western Bays.
Additional funding is needed for longterm major upgrades, including the construction of a new "sludge thickener", a multimillion dollar investment. The cost of a new "sludge thickener" is approximately $10 million and is the only real, longterm solution to the current discharge problem. Schumer is proposing that the more than $20 million in owed EPA funds for Nassau County be reimbursed immediately so that projects like this, as well as other environmental projects in Nassau, can be accomplished without placing an additional tax burden on local property owners.
This leak also hurts local businesses, boaters, and the fishing community. The Bay Park Plant discharges into the Channel and the Western Bays, a part of the South Shore Estuary Reserve. The Western Bays are listed on the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (NYS DEC) list of impaired water bodies for excessive nutrient pollution. In the last decades, they have been plagued by declining water quality and increased shellfish closures.
Schumer is directly appealing to EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson to immediately expedite approvals of over $20 million in grants owed to the County's sewer fund. With the return of these EPA funds, Nassau County will be able to fix the Bay Park Sewage Treatment Facility, complete significant sewer system upgrades, and reduce the tax burden on local residents.
A copy of Senator Schumer's letter to administrator Jackson can be found below.
Dear Administrator Jackson,
Thank you for your recent efforts to resolve the longstanding issues regarding the reimbursement of over $20 million in federal sewer construction funds to Nassau County, New York. I am concerned however, that since my original request for action in May of this year, the EPA has yet to resolve the outstanding issues and reimburse Nassau County for the costs associated with the series of federal grants dating back to the early 1980's. Reimbursement of these funds is more important than ever because of an emergency environmental situation unfolding in Nassau County's Reynolds Channel and Western Bays. Again, I respectfully urge the EPA to act quickly on our request.
As you may know, the reimbursement of this decadesold federal funding will be dedicated to the County's sewer fund and will serve as a shotinthearm to its wastewater capital budget. These funds are sorely needed right now, as the County's Bay Park Sewage Treatment Facility is in dire need of an upgrade to its operations to fix an excessive effluent discharge problem. For the past month, the County has struggled to deal with excessive amounts of cloudy effluent or "sludge" being discharged into nearby Reynolds Channel. This problem is not only one for our environment - it affects the local businesses, boaters, and fishing community as well. The Bay Park Plant discharges into the Channel and the Western Bays, a part of the South Shore Estuary Reserve. The Western Bays are listed on the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (NYS DEC) list of impaired water bodies for excessive nutrient pollution. In the last decades, they have been plagued by declining water quality and increased shellfish closures.
Recently, the NYS Department of Environmental Conservation cited Nassau County for releasing excessive amounts of suspended solids from the plant in multiple separate incidents. While the County is doing everything in its power to limit the amount of excess discharge with the resources it currently has, additional funding is needed for longterm major upgrades, including the construction of a new "sludge thickener", a multimillion dollar investment. The County has committed to using the federal funds reimbursed by the EPA to design and construct these needed upgrades to deal with this ongoing problem. The longterm health and vitality of the Western Bays are at stake. If our local, state and federal governments can come together, I am confident we can be protect them.
The Western Bays are a treasured resource for our County and our nation and we must do everything we can to protect them and bring them back from their plight. I know that with your help and support we can achieve the goal of restoring the Bays' health together.
Therefore, I again reiterate my call for prompt reimbursement of this funding so the County can immediately begin the implementation of capital upgrades needed to fix the effluent discharge problem at the Bay Park Sewer Treatment facility.
Charles E. Schumer
United States Senator
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