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DEC announces $500,000 is now available for Sewage Pollution Right to Know grant program

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Thu, Apr 21st 2016 02:25 pm

Funding is now available for projects that will assist communities with the detection, monitoring and reporting of combined sewer overflows (CSOs) to enhance reporting of the Sewage Pollution Right to Know law, New York State Department of Environmental Conservation Acting Commissioner Basil Seggos announced. Up to $500,000 is available for this grant program.

"This grant program is the first in the state to provide funds for this type of work," Seggos said. "Citizens want to know when a combined sewer is overflowing and they deserve to have that information. These funds will give municipalities the resources needed to install equipment and develop reporting tools to better inform the public."

Under the Sewage Pollution Right to Know law, communities with CSO outfalls must notify the public of combined sewer overflows during wet weather events. However, some municipalities lack detection and monitoring equipment to provide their citizens with useful and timely information. This grant will help to solve that problem, allowing municipalities to use state funds to purchase and install different types or levels of detection and notification. The grant is focused on smaller communities that typically lack funding to install these types of devices. Individual grants are capped at $50,000.

State Sen. Tom O'Mara, R-C-I-Big Flats, chairman of the Senate Environmental Conservation Committee, said, "The Senate secured funding last year to facilitate the implementation of the Sewage Pollution Right to Know law without adding yet another unfunded, state-imposed fiscal burden on local governments. I appreciate and commend DEC's cooperation and efforts to develop this notification system, and administer this first-in-the-state grant program to assist municipalities. It will ensure convenient, timely public access to this vital information and minimize the expense to our localities."

Dan Shapley, water quality program manager for Riverkeeper, said: "We appreciate that the governor and Legislature have dramatically increased funding for these important grant programs, and we hope communities use them to improve water quality and protect public health. People are often shocked to learn that, in 2016, many communities still discharge untreated sewage on occasion directly to the water. The data Riverkeeper gather with community scientists throughout the Hudson River Watershed show that people sometimes swim, boat and fish where water quality doesn't meet federal guidelines for safe swimming. Reporting all releases of untreated sewage to the water is an important step toward protecting the public and prioritizing investments in infrastructure that will improve water quality."

Specific information about the grant is available on DEC's website at http://www.dec.ny.gov/pubs/105337.html. Municipalities that want to apply for the grant should log on to Grants Gateway at http://grantsreform.ny.gov and search for "New York State Sewage Pollution Right to Know Grant Program." Applicants will fill out their applications in the Grants Gateway web-based system. Applications are being accepted until June 24. 

The Water Infrastructure Improvement Act of 2015, established as part of the 2015-16 New York state budget, originally provided $200 million in grants over three years to municipalities for critical drinking water and wastewater system improvements. This year's budget increased funding support for the act by $200 million for a total of $400 million. There is $175 million available this year. Municipalities have until June 20 to apply for the funding.

Combined sewer systems are sewer systems that are designed to collect storm water runoff, domestic sewage and industrial wastewater in the same pipe and then transfer it to the wastewater treatment plant. During rain events, when stormwater enters the sewers, the capacity of the sewer system may be exceeded and the excess water will be discharged directly to a waterbody (rivers, streams, estuaries and coastal waters). The untreated water may contain untreated sewage that may impact human health. In New York, there are 76 facilities with combined sewer systems and nearly 1,000 combined sewer overflow locations.

For information about the general CSO wet weather advisory and links to the CSO outfall map, visit the CSO wet weather advisory website:http://www.dec.ny.gov/chemical/88736.html.

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