Project Will Help Reduce Nitrogen Loading and Improve Water Quality in Forge River Watershed Area, Building Upon Ongoing Project in Carlls River to Link Homes to Sewer Systems
Governor Kathy Hochul and Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone today announced the groundbreaking of the $223.9 million Forge River Watershed Sewer District project designed to reduce nitrogen loading and improve water quality for homeowners and businesses located in the Mastic-Shirley area. The Forge River Watershed Sewer District boundaries extend from just west of the William Floyd Parkway, east to the Forge River and just south of Sunrise Highway; on the north to Poospatuck Creek and to the south not including the Poospatuck Indian Reservation. Once completed in 2025, a new wastewater treatment plant in Mastic, Town of Brookhaven, will serve nearly 1,900 parcels in the nearby Shirley-Mastic area. This project is part of the $408.8 million Suffolk County Coastal Resiliency Initiative announced last fall.
“Superstorm Sandy exposed the need to further protect our coastline communities on Long Island from the impact of climate change,” Governor Hochul said. “Today’s groundbreaking marks a significant milestone in our ongoing efforts to build resiliency. Everyone deserves easy access to safe water, and this project will help improve water quality for Suffolk County residents, reduce harmful pollutants, and further protect Long Island's delicate coastal ecosystem so that it can better withstand more intense storms in the future."
In October, Governor Hochul announced the start of construction on the $408.8 million storm resiliency sewer expansion in Suffolk County. The Suffolk County Coastal Resiliency Initiative includes wastewater conveyance and treatment upgrades along with sewer system connections for more than 4,000 parcels in the Town of Babylon, with connections for an additional 1,900 parcels in Mastic-Shirley. This innovative project leverages federal and state resources with local funding to prevent nitrogen and other contaminants from polluting Long Island's coastal waters. Other environmental benefits to this critical project include improving water quality, restoring ecosystems, and bolstering natural coastal barriers to protect communities from future flooding and severe storms.
Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone said, “Today we break ground on a historic sewer project that will both improve water quality in the Forge River and attract new investment to the Mastic community. The Forge River project will inject hundreds of millions of dollars into our economy, create hundreds of new jobs, and eliminate 1,889 cesspools and septic systems that are leaking excess nitrogen into the groundwater aquifer, and ultimately, into the Forge River. I want to thank those who have made this project possible, including Senate Majority Leader Schumer who worked to ensure the project would not fall victim to funding increases caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, Governor Hochul, who has provided strong support for the project on the state level, and Brookhaven Supervisor Ed Romaine, for making sure that the project site would be available. This successful effort is the result of a true working partnership between the federal, state and local governments, and we look forward to building on these efforts by expanding the new sewer system to include more of the Mastic-Shirley community.”
Thousands of homes in the Carlls River and Forge River Watersheds are unsewered and manage wastewater via on-site systems like septic tanks and cesspools. The outdated septic tanks and cesspools are prone to capacity failure as residents frequently need to limit household tasks such as dishwashing and laundry. The wastewater systems also cause ecological harm to the waterways as untreated sewage can inundate the watersheds with nitrogen and other harmful pollutants, and result in coastal ecosystem degradation. A 2014 report issued by the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) detailed the adverse impacts of nitrogen pollution on the region's natural coastal defenses and served as a catalyst for advancing funding for this project.
Superstorm Sandy, which inundated approximately half of the areas' existing wastewater systems with flood water, serves as a reminder on the importance of completing this project. To improve coastal resilience in the face of sea level rise and more intense storms fueled by climate change, the reduction in nitrogen and pollutants in the watersheds will help build back natural coastal wetlands that serve as barriers to storm surge and flooding along the South Shore.
The Carlls River project is anticipated to be completed in 2024, with Forge River to follow in 2026.
Through the Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Management (DHSES) and Governor's Office of Storm Recovery (GOSR), these projects leverage $243.5 million of Hazard Mitigation Grant Program (HMGP) funding from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and $66.4 million of Community Development Block Grant - Disaster Recovery (CDBG-DR) funding from US Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). DHSES will manage the entire project to ensure FEMA eligibility until all components, including Forge River are complete.
Today’s announcement complements New York State’s investments to reduce nitrogen pollution in the region’s waters through initiatives including the Long Island Nitrogen Action Plan, the Bay Park Conveyance Project, the replacement of aging septic and cesspool systems in Patchogue, and partnering with Suffolk County to provide grants for homeowners to help repair or replace their existing systems with advanced nitrogen treatment, among other actions.
State Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Services Commissioner Jackie Bray said, “To be prepared for increasing extreme weather we must make concrete investments to rehabilitate our natural defenses. Today’s groundbreaking in Mastic shows tangible progress in that work. This is a very good project that Governor Hochul and I are proud to supply and we remain dedicated to collaborating with Suffolk County, our state agency partners and FEMA on initiatives to mitigate the destructive impact of future flood events and protect our fellow New Yorkers
State Department of Environmental Conservation Commissioner Basil Seggos said, “Part of the historic Suffolk County Coastal Resiliency Initiative, the Forge River Watershed Sewer District project will transition thousands of Suffolk County homes from faulty and failing cesspool and septic systems to a sewer collection and treatment system that will reduce the amount of nitrogen reaching our coastal waters and protect Long Island’s drinking water while bolstering coastal resilience. DEC is proud to work with Governor Hochul, Suffolk County, and our State partners on this transformational project, which is a key component of the multi-billion dollar Long Island Nitrogen Action Plan.”
New York State Homes and Community Renewal Commissioner RuthAnne Visnauskas said, "Communities in the Forge River Watershed know the environmental and public health risks that come with flooded septic systems all too well. This initiative not only removes the need for septic systems for thousands of residents by connecting them to sewers, it removes nitrogen from our waterways, allowing the natural coastal barriers to grow back strong and protect against future flooding. We are proud to join Governor Hochul and County Executive Bellone in celebrating this critical benchmark.“
Environmental Facilities Corporation President and CEO Maureen A. Coleman said, “EFC is pleased to support this critical wastewater infrastructure project with a $23 million financing package that includes more than $4.6 million in grants. Governor Hochul understands that modernizing infrastructure is one of the keys to the continued resiliency and economic development of shoreline communities in the face of climate change and extreme weather. As the 50th anniversary of the Clean Water Act is observed this year, EFC remains committed to partnering with local governments to help them affordably invest in wastewater systems that help protect our environment and the public health of New Yorkers for generations to come.”
U.S Senator Chuck Schumer said, “Suffolk County’s lack of modern wastewater infrastructure leads to vast nitrogen pollution in our waterways, degrades our coastal defenses, threatens public health, and stifles sustainable, economic growth. But transformational infrastructure improvements are on track for the Mastic-Shirley area. I’m proud to have fought tooth-and-nail to deliver a massive $300-million-plus federal investment for this vital resiliency project, and to have urged FEMA and OMB earlier this year to swiftly approve the release of funds for these contracts. County Executive Bellone is wisely allocating an additional $46 million in American Rescue Plan funding that I secured for Suffolk County to fill funding gaps and keep this initiative moving forward. This project will create hundreds of good-paying construction jobs, clean our environment, enhance resiliency efforts, and provide for Suffolk County’s largest sewer expansion in four decades, improving Suffolk County and its residents’ quality of life for decades to come.”
U.S Senator Kirsten Gillibrand said, “I commend Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone for all of the hard work that was poured into the Forge River Sewer Project. This federally-funded project will help mitigate decades of nitrogen pollution from old outdated septic tanks and prepare south shore residents for the next superstorm. The Forge River Sewer Project is a prime example of an investment that will help protect our water quality, create local jobs and add resiliency to our coastlines.”
Representative Lee Zeldin said, “As someone who grew up and still lives in this great, local community, I can personally attest to the fact that the Forge River Sewer Project is critical to our quality of life. Dating back to my time in the New York State Senate, it’s been a long and hard fought journey to get to this groundbreaking. I was honored to do my part to save this project with legislation I got passed by Congress and signed into law in December 2020. This project is a product of all levels of government working together across party lines to get this done. Grateful for County Executive Bellone’s leadership bringing us all together for today’s groundbreaking. This is a great day for an amazing Suffolk County community.”
Senator Anthony Palumbo said, "The Forge River Watershed Sewer project is a collaborative effort between State, Federal and Local governments to protect the region's streams, waterways, lakes and coastlines, while also providing important services to area residents. This project is a win, win for the region and I am pleased that I could do my part to help promote this critically important initiative."
Senator Alexis Weik said, “This incredibly important infrastructure project will move nearly 2,000 homes and 150 businesses off of outdated cesspools and connect them to a state of the art sewage treatment system. Once completed, this will help reduce nitrogen into the Forge River and revitalize the surrounding community.”
Assemblymember Fred Thiele said, "The residents of the Forge River Watershed have toiled with their elected officials for decades to improve the water quality and quality of life in their community. After years of advocacy and study, the solution to improved water quality is at hand. Today's groundbreaking marks a victory for the Forge River and for water quality in Suffolk County. This sewer project will not only improve the environment but will also be a catalyst for economic and community renewal across the Tri-Hamlet peninsula. My congratulations to County Executive Steve Bellone and Suffolk County for leading this intergovernmental partnership that will insure a cleaner, better future for all."
Assemblymember Joseph DeStefano said, “This is one of the most important projects for this area in generations. It will not only protect the environment, but will be a huge economic generator. It will bolster property values and create the business opportunities needed to create jobs and strengthen the tax base.”
Kevin J. McCaffrey, Presiding Officer, Suffolk County Legislature said, “The ceremonial groundbreaking of the Forge River Watershed Sewer Project is the beginning of our commitment to the future of the Forge River, our tidal wetlands, our coastal resiliency, and the entire Great South Bay. Thanks to cooperation from leaders in government, as well as, the labor, science, and environmental communities, we move forward on our initiative to get as many homes and businesses connected to an Advanced Wastewater Treatment Facility to improve the overall health of our precious waterways and groundwater.”
Suffolk County Legislature Majority Leader Nick Caracappa said, “This is truly a historic groundbreaking event for the coastal resiliency initiative Forge River Watershed Sewer Project. This project not only solidifies Suffolk County’s commitment to our environment, water quality, and residents, but will create many good paying local jobs for our hardworking men and women within the labor workforce. This particular project is one of many that my colleagues and I in the Legislature intend to bring forth in areas of Suffolk County in dire need of these sewers. I remain committed to working alongside Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone, environmentalists, labor leaders, and other local elected officials to see these projects completed, thus improving the quality of life here in Suffolk County.”
Suffolk County Legislator Jim Mazzarella said, “Today’s groundbreaking enables us to write a new positive environmental and economic chapter for our communities. It is the collective work product of so many whom deserve credit including all the levels of government who worked cooperatively. Ultimately it was the residents who voted to invest in their community are those who are truly deserving of thanks. I am proud to represent the 3rd Legislative District and I am honored to see this project to fruition. It is truly a great and historic day for the tri-hamlet community.”
Town of Brookhaven Supervisor Ed Romaine said, “The water quality of the Forge River has been a point of concern for many years, and I am pleased that the problem will now be addressed and not just talked about. This sewer district will provide some of the positive environmental and economic assistance that our area needs and should provide relief for some homeowners who pay exorbitant sums to try and maintain failing systems. Brookhaven and Suffolk County have worked together with New York State to make this long-planned sewer district a reality that will be a benefit to the environment and the residents of the Tri-Hamlet community.”
Matthew Aracich, President, Nassau/Suffolk Building Trades Council said, "Governor Kathy Hochul and Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone have lead the charge to stop polluting Long Island's ground water, our most precious resource. Residents of Mastic and the surrounding areas will soon experience the value an Advanced Wastewater Treatment Facility brings to communities. Organized Labor and Signatory Employers were aligned with our Environmental Partners from the very beginning of this initiative, and thus proves that infrastructure improvements require teamwork to be successful. Clean water is the most important component needed to move institutional and private businesses forward, expanding opportunities that touch all sectors of the economy."
John R. Durso, President of the Long Island Federation of Labor, AFL-CIO said, “Our union movement, environmental organizations, the business community and elected leaders across party lines have all come together to make this ground breaking possible. This construction project will generate economic growth, enhance recreational and tourism opportunities, support local redevelopment efforts, and create jobs through the projects themselves. It is important to remember our work is not done. Our movement is committed to continuing this work, and bringing people together to deliver for the residents of the 3rd Legislative District and communities across this county who are still waiting for the opportunity to connect their homes to sewers. We have a chance to maintain this coalition in pursuit of a County Wide Waste Water Management District, which will create the framework needed many more ground breakings like this one over the next fifty years. ”
Daniel C. Levler, President, Suffolk County AME said, "AME applauds the Governor and County Executive's efforts to invest in clean water infrastructure, and this historic Forge River Watershed groundbreaking is a reminder of his significant effort to bring funding and expertise together for the greater good. On behalf of our 10,000 members, AME is proud of our role in infrastructure advocacy. Our region is well served by our dedicated union members, including our engineers who certify and manage sewer infrastructure projects and our wastewater treatment plant operators and crews who maintain water quality and keep our systems in full operation. This essential labor is vital to the County's efforts to improve both our local water quality and the resiliency of our coastlines."
Mitchell H. Pally, Chief Executive Officer, The Long Island Builders Institute said, “The Long Island Builders Institute is once again honored to be part of the continuing expansion of the county sewer system into the Mastic area. This expansion will provide substantial environmental and economic development benefits to this entire community, thus ensuring that the residents of this community enjoy the same benefits as many other parts of the county. Every expansion of the sewer system brings with it an understanding that one more community is entering a new phase of economic benefits and clean water and leaving behind the outdated and unsound septic systems of the past.”
Marc Herbst, Executive Director, Long Island Contractors’ Association said, “We applaud Governor Hochul and County Executive Bellone for their tireless effort to bring a modernized sewer system to Suffolk County. This new infrastructure will bring vast ecological and economic benefits to residents In Forge River and beyond. LICA will continue to advocate for strong investments in our community for a better, cleaner Long Island.”
X. Cristofer Damianos, Infrastructure Committee Chair, Association for a Better Long Island said, "Due to the geographic realities of living on an island, this infrastructure project is critical toward protecting our fragile watersheds and aquifers as well as making the coastline more resilient for future storms. While the environmental benefits are evident, this project will also spur economic development and help strengthen the businesses within these communities. This effort further underscores the sustained role of our federal and state officials and County Executive Steve Bellone in seeking funds that can be utilized on behalf of projects that protect and preserve Long Island's environment as well as our economy."
Adrienne Esposito, Executive Director, Citizens Campaign for the Environment said, “The Forge River has been polluted and degraded for almost a century. High density development using septic systems along the river started in the 1920s and resulted in the most polluted river on Long Island. Today, we begin an authentic restoration process. Sewer infrastructure along the Forge River will improve water quality, strengthen coastal wetlands which provide flood protection, increase home values and improve the community’s quality of life. These are significant advances that are strongly supported by the public. Kudos to Governor Hochul and County Executive Bellone for leading the charge to implement this vital infrastructure project.”
Julie Tighe, President, NY League of Conservation Voters said, "The New York League of Conservation Voters applauds the leadership of Governor Kathy Hochul, DEC Commissioner Basil Seggos, and County Executive Steve Bellone for driving forward this partnership between State and local government to advance the Suffolk County Coastal Resiliency Initiative Forge River Watershed sewer project. Today's historic groundbreaking builds resiliently for the future by connecting communities to a new sewer system that will protect Long Island's sole source of groundwater for years to come. We look forward to seeing the rest of Suffolk's Coastal Resiliency Initiative come to fruition."
Kevin McDonald, The Nature Conservancy’s Long Island Policy Advisor said, “Today, we celebrate a groundbreaking that begins one of the most important and ambitious environmental projects Long Island has seen in the last 40 years. After decades of contamination from polluted wastewater, Suffolk County’s bold vision and plan will help restore the Forge River to its natural beauty for all to enjoy. The Nature Conservancy commends Governor Hochul for accelerating New York’s conservation work. Without county and state leadership, the river would remain one of the most polluted waterways in New York State. When we work together and invest fully in smart solutions where they are needed most, as demonstrated here, we can repair our bays and harbors and transform our communities. The Nature Conservancy thanks the leaders of this effort and looks forward to helping secure these life-changing investments across the entire island. Together, we can return clean water and healthy coasts to all Long Island.”