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Cuomo extends state money for water quality projects

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo

Two bills sponsored by Assemblyman Fred Thiele Jr. (I-Sag Harbor) and State Senator Kenneth LaValle (R-Port Jefferson) will expand water quality protection efforts under the Peconic Bay Region Community Preservation Fund now that they’ve been signed by  Governor Andrew Cuomo.

One bill will provide state money to offset the cost of installing nitrogen-reducing septic systems. The grants will  be administered by Suffolk County, which already has its own pot of money devoted to grants for the improved systems. Shelter Island Town also provides grants, but the state and county grants would kick in first and Shelter Island money would come into play only if the cost exceeded the amount a property owner had to spend on a new system.

The state’s grant money could also be applied to larger projects aimed at improving water quality.

These could include money for construction of public water mains and connections for residents of areas where drinking water has been shown to be contaminated by toxic chemicals, hazardous substances or emerging contaminants.

A second bill permits the Peconic Bay Region towns to establish septic system replacement loan programs as part of the water quality improvement portion of the Community Preservation Fund.

To qualify for such loans, the state stipulates:

• The property must be located in an environmental priority area designated by a town under its CPF project plan

• The new septic system must be an approved septic system upgrade under the CPF project plan and Suffolk County Department of Health Services regulations

• Loans can’t exceed a term of 10 years and can’t exceed the actual cost of the project

• Loans may be repaid through an annual charge on the real property tax bill

• All repayments shall be deposited in the CPF.

Both laws take effect immediately.

“Water quality degradation on the East End poses one of the most serious threats to the health of our residents,” Mr. Thiele said in announcing the signing of the state legislation. “We need every tool in the tool box to reverse the disturbing trend of declining water quality,” he said.

“With growing threats to our water supply in the Peconic Bay region we must do everything possible to protect and insure the quality of our drinking water,” Mr. LaValle said. “This legislation gives localities the ability to participate in providing clean, healthy water to areas impacted by emerging contaminants and gives access to needed funds for clean water initiatives,” he said.

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