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Town engineer explores environmental grant money

REPORTER FILE PHOTO Town Engineer John Cronin is mulling ideas for grant applications that could bring state money to the Island to tackle septic system issues.

Town Engineer John Cronin is mulling ideas for grant applications that could bring state money to the Island to tackle septic system issues.

Shelter Island Town Engineer John Cronin is exploring ideas how grant money from the New York State Environmental Facilities Corporation could be used for water and wastewater infrastructure upgrades here.Assemblyman Fred Thiele Jr. (I-Sag Harbor) announced Wednesday that $50 million would be awarded this year for qualifying municipal projects, and $75,000 for each of the next two years for those grants.

This year, $30 million would be allocated for wastewater infrastructure projects while $20 million would go for drinking water projects, Mr. Thiele said.

Since mapping of aged septic systems began on the Island last summer under a grant from the Group for the East End, Mr. Cronin is trying to devise a project that could take the mapping project to the next step, possibly providing money for upgrades to some critical systems.

“I’m not sure if using money for private properties would be correct,” the town engineer said. But he plans to explore that possibility since upgrades, particularly in areas where aged systems could be leeching untreated sewage into area waterways, is critical.

He has also sent information on the grants to Heights Property Owners Corporation General Manager Stella Lagudis, since that organization maintains its own sewer system on the Island.

“We look into every opportunity to try to get grant money,” Ms. Lagudis said. At the same time, because HPOC is a private community, it can be “a hurdle” to secure public funding, she said.

The HPOC system has, in the past, sought to expand its capacity and effectiveness by tying into the Greenport Village sewer system. The last attempt in 2012 met with resistance from then Mayor David Nyce after North Fork Environmental Council representatives objected to a collaboration.

The NFEC were concerned that leakage in a pipe connecting the two systems could result in serious water pollution.

That promptedMr. Nyce to say that while the village anticipated having excess capacity, he preferred to extend service east and west on the North Fork rather than to run a connection under the bay.

Ms. Lagudis said recently that the HPOC system is meeting required standards. But there has been talk in the past about someday expanding the Heights system to cover Bridge Street where merchants are dependent on septic systems.

The Environmental Facilities Corporation will give priority to wastewater infrastructure projects that demonstrate economic hardship and pose environmental health issues, Mr. Thiele said.

Priority will be given to projects that mitigate combined sewer and storm sewer overflows and increase system resiliency to protect wastewater collection and treatment systems from sea level rise and damage from extreme weather, the legislator said.

Those receiving the grants could get 25 percent of eligible project costs, but, in any case, would not be more than $5 million.

Drinking water projects providing the greatest reduction in risks to public health will be eligible for grants of up to 60 percent of a project’s cost, with a $2 million limit.

Again, preference will be given to communities demonstrating economic hardships with 75 percent of such grants going to those communities.

Applications must be submitted by September 4.

In addition to the grant money, the EFC and State Department of Health offer zero percent and low-interest loans to communities to help reduce the cost of infrastructure projects.

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