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$32 Million Awarded in Adirondack Park Clean Water Grants - Adirondack Council Report: Progress Made on State Funding, Local Action

For more information:
John F. Sheehan
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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: Tuesday, November 21, 2017 

ALBANY, N.Y. – State and town officials have made significant progress over the past three years addressing threats to water quality in the Adirondack Park, but still have far to go, said the Adirondack Council in a report released today. 

The report is entitled Wastewater Treatment Plants in the Adirondacks: Status of Compliance and Operational Needs.

“The Governor has invested $32 million in grants to Adirondack communities for wastewater infrastructure and drinking water projects since 2015,” said Adirondack Council Executive Director William C. Janeway.  “That reduced the inventory of much-needed clean water improvements and wastewater treatment plant upgrades, which exceeded $100 million in last year’s estimates.  These grants lift a significant burden from the small communities of the park, which struggle to maintain wastewater facilities and drinking water to support more than 12 million annual visitors, residents and businesses.

“Yet even with these important grants, the need continues to grow.  We have identified another $85 million in immediate needs in Adirondack communities for wastewater treatment and sanitary sewer costs,” Janeway said.  “More grants will be needed to help local taxpayers and communities, if we hope to keep the Adirondack Park’s water clean and healthy for everyone.”

The Adirondack Park contains more than 11,000 lakes and ponds, thousands of miles of navigable rivers and nearly 30,000 miles of brooks and streams. It is the source of nearly all of the state’s major rivers, including the Hudson, Mohawk, Raquette, Black, Ausable, Oswegatchie, St. Regis, Saranac and Beaver.

The state grants to communities to date are the result of the Governor’s and Legislature’s historic $2.5 billion five-year Clean Water Infrastructure program enacted in 2017, and grant funds approved the two previous years. These grants are given to communities in need and the remaining local project costs are largely financed through the Federal State Revolving Loan Fund which is administered by New York State’s Environmental Facilities Corp.  

The Adirondack Council’s new report documents grants that Adirondack communities (and a few nearby) have received under New York State’s Clean Water programs as well as financing they have received under NYSEFC State Water Revolving Loan Fund. The next round for state grant funding is scheduled for 2018.

“The success of the program to date can be attributed to teamwork between the local, state and federal levels.  Communities and organizations helped to identify and assess the need.  The Governor and Legislature made sure grants were awarded to assist communities for which loans would not be enough to get the job done,” Janeway said. “Our Congressional delegation has called for increased federal funding for State Revolving Funds (SRF), including Elise Stefanik (R-Willsboro) and Paul Tonko (D-Amsterdam).”

Janeway noted that some communities are still in the process of identifying their estimated project costs for additional work needed at their facilities.  As a result, the estimate of an additional need for $85 million is for ready-to-go projects.  This need will grow over time.

Overall, the Adirondack Park’s water and wastewater facilities and sewer systems are stressed with age and increased use.  They are breaking down.  In order to secure continued success for clean water in the Adirondacks, more will need to be done.

The Council’s report notes that “It is clear that local Adirondack communities cannot take on this on-going challenge alone with their limited resources and tax base. All New Yorkers as well as visitors from across the nation will benefit from federal, state and local partnerships to address these needs. The information provided in this report shows a clear understanding of these concerns and the continued need for support; both technical and fiscal.”

The study also incorporates information from the Adirondack Council’s 2016 report titled Clean Water Infrastructure in the Adirondack Park: Crisis or Opportunity and other sources.

“The clean water infrastructure needs in the Adirondacks are clear and well documented in the report,” Janeway noted.  “The rationale and the call to action for all the towns with wastewater treatment plants and sewer systems in the Park are sound. Now is the time for all communities to move forward, plan for their future needs and apply for future grants under New York State’s Clean Water programs.”

“Already, many local governments are positioned to apply for the next round of grants in 2018 and hopefully receive future funds to reduce their local burden,” the report states. “The Adirondack Council will continue its efforts to reach out to local communities to support their efforts so more clean water grants can come to the Adirondacks. Now is clearly the time for all of us to work in partnership to secure the necessary funds needed to properly protect the water resources of the Adirondack Park.”

Communities are working with the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (NYSDEC) and the New York State Environmental Facilities Corporation (NYSEFC) to solve these problems, but the costs are far beyond local means. 

New York State, clean water regulations and facility permits are administered under the NYSDEC State Pollution Discharge Elimination System (SPDES).  Under this permit system, specific requirements are put in place for wastewater treatment plants and sewer systems to remain in compliance and protect water bodies from their effluent discharge.

The report categorizes each of the wastewater treatment plants in the communities within the Park based on their compliance with regulations of the Clean Water Act under the NYSDEC SPDES permit program, consent orders that are currently in place and emerging issues certain facilities are facing. 

This Council’s documentation can further aid in prioritizing clean water funding for Adirondack Park communities and help provide additional state and federal assistance to solve these problems. This report documents current clean water project capital needs for each of the community’s wastewater treatment plants and sewer collection systems needed to protect the water resources of the Adirondack Park.

New York’s six-million-acre (9,300-square-mile) Adirondack Park is the largest park in the contiguous United States.  Almost half of it is public Forest Preserve, protected as “forever wild” under the NYS Constitution. It also contains nine villages, 130 small hamlets and 130,000 year-round residents.      

The Adirondack Council is a privately funded not-for-profit organization whose mission is to ensure the ecological integrity and wild character of the Adirondack Park.  The Council envisions a Park comprised of core wilderness areas, surrounded by farms and working forests, as well as vibrant, local communities. 

The Council carries out its mission through research, education, advocacy and legal action.  Adirondack Council members live in all 50 United States.

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