News Feature | May 19, 2017

New York Invests $2.5 Billion In Water Infrastructure

Sara Jerome

By Sara Jerome,

New York state is trying to restore the health of its waterways through a major infrastructure bill passed last month.

“The law, the Clean Water Infrastructure Act, allocates $2.5 billion to a variety of projects, as concerns about the safety of drinking water are growing,” The New York Times reported.

"It's a real once-in-a-generation investment," said New York Assemblyman Sean Ryan, per The Buffalo News. "We're going to make this investment now, but we're not going to see the fruits of that for five, 10, 15 years."

In some parts of New York, water quality has declined since the 1970s, since the federal Clean Water Act passed that decade in a milestone for water restoration.

“Across the United States, impressive gains in water quality were made in the decades after passage of the Clean Water Act of 1972. But courts have generally ruled that the federal law was designed to address surface water contamination, and are divided about its application to tainted groundwater. As a result, problems from industrial pollution and untreated sewage have persisted,” the report said.

Water quality is a major problem on Long Island. Suffolk County has 360,000 septic systems, the report said, a number that rivals the figure for all of New Jersey. Leaky septic systems seep nitrogen into groundwater, rivers, and bays, the report said.

“What we have been doing for decades is just managing the decline of water quality,” said Steven Bellone, the Suffolk County executive, per the report. “Every water body is listed as impaired. We have dead rivers, closed beaches, harmful algal blooms.”

The state’s new water infrastructure bill is meant to begin addressing problems like this. The legislation will install advanced wastewater treatment systems to address nitrogen loading on Long Island, according to the office of Governor Andrew Cuomo.

Cuomo called it a “historic” investment.

“Investing in water infrastructure is critical to fostering growth in our communities and our state," Cuomo said in a statement. “This Act will continue our historic commitment to protecting and preserving New York’s natural resources by infusing $2 billion in critical upgrades to water systems across the state. This investment will rebuild and improve our regional infrastructure, while supporting a stronger, healthier New York for generations to come.”

The legislation addresses municipal wastewater treatment systems, drinking water systems, and source water. Here is what it does for drinking water systems:

  • Installs advanced treatment and filtration systems to treat and remove both regulated and unregulated contaminants found in drinking water;
  • Upgrades aging distribution and treatment systems, including replacement of lead service lines in low-income communities;
  • Connects contaminated private drinking water wells to regulated public drinking water systems.

The New York Times provided a summary of what’s in the legislation, as well:

The new state act, which spans five years, will among other things provide $1.5 billion in grants for water infrastructure improvements, $75 million in rebates to help homeowners replace septic systems and $110 million to protect land in watersheds. The money significantly expands a similar state infrastructure fund that over the last few years made $400 million available to communities.

For similar stories visit Water Online’s Drinking Water Regulations And Legislation Solutions Center.