State Bills Would Aid Water Protection

Assemblyman Fred W. Thiele Jr. and State Senator Kenneth P. LaValle passed a three-bill package to promote water quality protection. The bills passed both houses of the Legislature by overwhelming margins and will be submitted to Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo to sign into law. 

One bill would authorize towns in the Peconic Bay region to establish a septic system replacement loan program using money from the community preservation fund, a portion of which can be allocated to water quality improvement projects. As set forth in the bill, towns may require loans made under the program to be repaid by the property owner through a charge on the property benefited. Such a charge would be levied and collected in the same manner as town taxes. Revenue received by the town from the repayment of loans would be deposited back into the community preservation fund. Towns would be authorized to use a combination of grants and loans to incentivize septic system upgrades.

Another bill would clarify existing law by authorizing the use of the community preservation fund for the construction of public water mains and connections to provide drinking water to inhabitants whose drinking water supply has been contaminated by toxic chemicals, hazardous substances, or emerging contaminants. The East Hampton Town Board recently declared a state of emergency for residential wells in Wainscott that were discovered to be contaminated with perfluorinated compounds. Last month, it voted to enter into an inter-municipal agreement with the Suffolk County Water Authority to jointly apply for grant funding to extend water mains to affected properties. 

The third bill would authorize local laws requiring the monitoring of groundwater impacts resulting from mining or the reclamation of mines within a county with a population of one million or more that draws its primary source of drinking water for a majority of residents from a designated sole-source aquifer. 

“All levels of government are working together to address the problem of declining water quality on Long Island as we see increasing incidents of contamination from sources as diverse as sand mines, nitrogen, and emerging chemicals,” Mr. Thiele said in a statement, “The State Legislature must provide not only money but other tools to combat the continuing health threat to our water resources. Increased water quality monitoring, extension of public water, and nitrogen reduction through septic system upgrades are all steps to restoring our water quality. We urge the governor to give these tools to our local governments.”