As on any other weekday, traffic buzzed along Vanderbilt Motor Parkway in Hauppauge on Tuesday afternoon, Dec. 12. Yet unknown to those in their vehicles, it was no ordinary weekday.
At the Suffolk County Water Authority’s Education Center and Laboratory, Gov. Kathy Hochul (D) joined public officials, environmentalists and SCWA staff to launch $479 million in grants statewide to invest in clean water.
The program earmarks $30 million for the state’s clean water septic system replacements, directing $20 million of that sum into Suffolk County. Another $17 million will support protecting drinking water from emerging contaminants, Hochul added.
The governor projected the initiative would spur 24,000 new jobs statewide and save ratepayers $1.3 billion annually.
“This is a great day for the people of this county and the people of this state,” she said. “It’s an investment in our environment. It’s an investment in justice. And it’s an investment in our future for all of our children.”
Outgoing Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone (D) reported that 360,000 homes and businesses within the county operate on aging septic systems and cesspools, contaminating the sole-source aquifer on Long Island. He said this stimulus, coupled with a $10 million investment by the county Legislature, would enable the county government to fund septic replacements in 2024 and 2025.
“This is an exciting moment because we can see the path to solving the crisis,” Bellone said, adding the funds would bolster the clean water septic industry in Suffolk while advancing the administration’s two primary objectives of establishing a countywide wastewater management district and the Clean Water Restoration Fund — blocked by the county Legislature earlier this year.
SCWA board chair Charlie Lefkowitz said the funds would assist the public utility in its mission of eliminating emerging contaminants from the drinking supply.
“This announcement today is historic,” he said. “It’s historic that the sewer projects, the septics that contaminate and get into our bays and streams and harbors — we can finally address it.”
He added, “We look at some of these large infrastructure projects that we’re working on — sewer projects, the electrification of the Long Island Rail Road’s Port Jeff Branch — these are projects that when you look back 100, 150 years and none of us are here, they’ll say, ‘That group of people really did it the right way.’”