Governor Andrew M. Cuomo today announced that the Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) has issued Emergency Declarations to allow the use of a General Permit for emergency repairs as a result of Hurricane Sandy and to suspend permit requirements for pumping out flood waters in New York City. The general permit will allow municipalities and private landowners to quickly perform emergency repairs and stabilize waterfronts, roads and bridges in the coastal areas of the state. The suspension of the permit requirement for pumping water in New York City will allow residents and businesses to remove water from affected buildings immediately.
The State continues to work to protect communities and vital infrastructure that was damaged by Hurricane Sandy, Governor Cuomo said. All state agencies are ensuring that the States response as a whole to the storm is expeditious and effective. These emergency declarations will ensure communities can work on recovery efforts as soon as possible under the best practices identified by DEC.
DEC Commissioner Joe Martens said, In response to the Governors call for state agencies to respond for Hurricane Sandy, DEC mobilized emergency management teams in every affected region to assist localities in dealing with damage caused by storm surge, high winds and flooding. Those teams are focusing on responding to communities, businesses and homeowners adversely impacted by the hurricane until recovery is complete. Staff will issue general permits to allow municipalities and the general public to quickly take the steps necessary to stabilize and repair property, roads and bridges.
The widespread damage to infrastructure and public and private property caused by Hurricane Sandys wind, flooding, and coastal and stream bank erosion is still being assessed. Much of the stabilization and repair work may need to take place in environmentally sensitive areas such as coastal areas, protected waterways and wetlands. Best practices identified by DEC should be used to make these repairs so that natural resources are protected wherever possible. DEC will make staff available to consult with property owners.
Permitting for stabilization and repair projects will be expedited through the use of a new general permit available to complete online that will cover work in the coastal areas of Long Island and New York City, and the tidal areas in the lower Hudson Valley. DEC is collaborating with towns on Long Island that maintain their own DEC-approved coastal erosion programs. This permit applies to work regulated under Articles 25 and 34 of the Environmental Conservation Law (ECL). The permits will be granted through October 31, 2013.
The public is advised to exercise caution and not to enter streams, rivers, lakes and coastal areas where fast currents and submerged debris can be hazardous and life threatening.
Work should only be undertaken after consultation with DEC, except where the work is immediately necessary to protect public health and safety, to ensure the project will be carried out in a manner that minimizes impacts to natural resources. To learn more about the use of general permit and best practices for recovery efforts in the wake of Hurricane Sandy, visit: http://www.dec.ny.gov/index.html. In addition Regional Environmental Permits Offices are available to answer questions. A list of these offices can be found at: http://www.dec.ny.gov/about/39381.html.
DEC is working with its local and federal partners to assess the damage to New Yorks coastal region and determine next steps in recovery. At this point, DEC is able to confirm:
- Smith Point County Park, Suffolk County: 50-yard breach of Fire Island in Smith Point County Park in the natural area and located approximately 5,000 meters west of the west jetty of Moriches Inlet.
- Moriches Inlet and Cupsoque County Park, Suffolk County: Breach at Moriches Inlet and the east jetty of Moriches Inlet is severely damaged. Cupsoque County Park almost completely washed into Moriches Bay.
- Fire Island, Suffolk County: National Park Service reports there are multiple breaches along Fire Island. The exact details and locations have not been provided. National Park Service is conducting further assessments of this area.
- Rockaway Beach, Queens: Rockaway Beach is devastated with miles of boardwalk, lifeguard stations and playgrounds gone. More than 50 homes burned and streets and buildings are flooded.
DEC has received reports of significant damage to the beaches at these locations as well:
- Long Beach, Nassau County
- Robert Moses Park, Nassau County
- Jones Beach, Nassau County: Beach overtopped and water was traversing the island from ocean to bay side
- Meschustt Beach, Suffolk County: Loss of 12-foot dune
- National Seashore, Fire Island, Suffolk County
Permit Requirements for Pumping Water in NYC Suspended
Permitting requirements for businesses and homeowners seeking to discharge water from flooded properties are temporarily suspended. If water contains significant recoverable material, such as fuel oil floating on water that could cause significant further damage to the structure if not removed first or significant environmental damage, all reasonable measures should be taken to collect and properly dispose of the material prior to pumping out the structure.
The suspension of permitting requirements applies only to flood-related discharges where an expedited response is needed.
Where a significant spill has occurred, the owner or operator must report the spill to DECs Spill Hotline (1-800-457-7362) and use environmental contractors to handle, treat and dispose of such substances properly prior to discharging to the City sewer system. Contractors who collect and dispose of released petroleum or hazardous substances must comply with all requirements for the handling, treatment and disposal of the collected materials.
Additional guidance on the above requirements can be found at the following weblinks:
- http://www.dec.ny.gov/regulations/2634.html - spill notification requirements
- http://www.dec.ny.gov/public/76659.html - general storm response information
- http://www.dec.ny.gov/chemical/86505.html - guidance on fuel oil clean ups in residences during storms/flooding
Wastewater Treatment Plants
DEC is closely monitoring the operations at wastewater treatment plants in the area. The following is a summary of what has been reported so far to DEC since Hurricane Sandy hit:
- 12 facilities reported flooding
- 10 facilities reported partially treated or untreated flows at some point since Monday
- 4 facilities still have partially treated or untreated flows at this time
Due to the effects of the hurricane, there is no accurate way to determine the amount of partially treated or untreated flows entering waterways.
More than 630 storm-related spills have been reported to DECs Spills Hotline. DEC staff is responding to these spills. Staff is overseeing the work of contractors and, when necessary, hiring contractors to clean the spills.
Burn Ban Exceptions
To help municipalities affected by Hurricane Sandy, the state Department of Environmental Conservation will grant exceptions to the ban on burning woody debris. At this time, affected municipalities may request authorization from DEC to burn vegetative debris, such as tree limbs, branches and brush, collected in response to the storm.
Requests from municipal officials to burn debris should be directed to the appropriate DEC Regional Office, attention Regional Air Pollution Control Engineer, and must identify name and contact information for the municipal official, the location of the burn, and specific information about management of the fire. Contact information for regional offices is available at http://www.dec.ny.gov/about/50230.html.
For requests demonstrating the need to dispose of woody debris resulting from Hurricane Sandy, DEC will use enforcement discretion to allow burning that would normally be prohibited under state regulation (6 NYCRR Part 215). Any such authorization will be for a limited time period but will not be authorized beyond December 31, 2012. This exercise of enforcement discretion will only apply to DECs prohibition on open burning; all other requirements remain effective.
For a full list of questions and answers on open burning in New York State, visit DECs website at http://www.dec.ny.gov/chemical/58519.html.
Wood Movement Restrictions
DEC reminds homeowners, contractors and municipalities that tree debris may harbor invasive, exotic pests. In many of the storm-affected areas, state and federal pest quarantines that restrict the movement of wood to prevent spread of these dangerous, tree-killing pests remain in effect.
Asian long-horned beetle quarantines are in place on Long Island and New York City, which prohibit movement of wood outside those areas, except under permit from the state Department of Agriculture and Markets (NYSDAM). For information on moving wood and woody debris in those areas, see NYSDAMs website: http://www.agriculture.ny.gov/PI2/alb.html.
DEC, NYSDAM and USDAs Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service have also quarantined four Hudson Valley counties and 16 western New York counties to prevent spread of emerald ash borer. This quarantine prohibits movement of any ash wood or firewood of any species, out of the quarantined counties.
As a general rule, tree debris should not be moved outside of the county it came from. Chipping wood waste will usually eliminate any insect pests and make the material suitable for mulch, erosion control, fuel or use as a bulking agent. Wood debris in log form may be buried in an approved landfill or stockpiled for later disposal or use. To prevent spread of invasive pests, any log waste sold or given away as firewood should not be moved outside its county of origin.
A DEC Firewood and EAB Hotline is available at 1-866-640-0652. For additional information, visit DECs website at the direct links below:
- Storm debris management: http://www.dec.ny.gov/regulations/8751.html.
- Firewood movement and regulations: http://www.dec.ny.gov/animals/28722.html
- Emerald ash borer: http://www.dec.ny.gov/animals/7253.html
- Asian longhorned beetle: http://www.dec.ny.gov/animals/7255.html
State Land Closures
All DEC properties in Nassau and Suffolk counties will be closed to the public until all properties can be assessed and all potential hazards removed. These lands are closed to all activities, including hunting, hiking and biking.
Popular DEC properties subject to closure include, but are not limited to:
- Otis Pike Preserve
- Rock Point Natural Resources Management Area
- Westhampton Management Area
- West Tiana
- Barcelona Neck
- Sarnoff Pine Barrens Preserve
- Randall Pond/Ridge Conservation Area (Please check website for additional locations.)
For additional questions about the closures, please contact DEC at (631) 444-0350.