State to Direct $150 Million to Replace Aging Water and Sewer Infrastructure, Improve Quality of Life and Protect Public Health
Governor Directs $7 Million to Immediately Launch Engineering, Design, and Construction of 'Third Street' Sewer Project
$8 Million Assistance Package to Fund Emergency Repairs and Jump Start Long-Term Planning for Lead Pipe Replacement
$3 Million Awarded for Housing Remediation and Resiliency Pilot Program
Governor Kathy Hochul today announced a historic $150 million investment and a precedent-setting three-way partnership with Mount Vernon Mayor Shawyn Patterson-Howard and Westchester County Executive George Latimer to immediately advance work to address longstanding water infrastructure and related public health challenges that have plagued the city of Mount Vernon for decades. At an event at Mount Vernon's City Hall, the Governor also announced the immediate launch of the $7 million 'Third Street Sewer Project,' that, when complete, will ensure reliable wastewater service for 500 nearby households currently served by temporary pumps and a makeshift system staged in the street to ensure adequate wastewater collection.
"In too many communities of color like Mount Vernon, critical water infrastructure has been left to fall into disrepair, but today we are setting an example for the nation by advancing environmental justice, improving quality of life for residents, and addressing decades of disinvestment," Governor Hochul said. "When I met with Mayor Patterson-Howard and heard about the seriousness of this crisis in her city, I immediately directed my administration to coordinate with the city and the county and right this systemic wrong. I am so proud of our collective and collaborative efforts to deliver this transformative environmental justice victory."
Westchester County Executive George Latimer said, "I want to thank Governor Kathy Hochul for her leadership in addressing this longstanding challenge that has plagued the City of Mount Vernon for decades. The significant investment in Mount Vernon's aging sewage and wastewater infrastructure is absolutely necessary, as thousands of homeowners are directly suffering from sewage backup problems and related health issues, and sewage flooding is inevitably making its way into the nearby Hutchinson and Bronx rivers. Mount Vernon's pipes are old, corroded and overburdened, and I am eager to begin this three-way partnership between the State, the County and the City to fix it."
Mount Vernon Mayor Shawyn Patterson-Howard said, "I want to thank Governor Kathy Hochul for this historic investment into the City of Mount Vernon. Rebuilding our infrastructure is critical to the economic, social and physical health of the community. Thank you to the Mount Vernon, Westchester and NYS teams that have worked tirelessly and collaboratively for the past few months to make this happen. This is what government working together for the people looks like and we're excited to be moving forward together on this monumental sewer project."
White House Environmental Justice Advisory Council Vice Chair, Member of the National Resource Defense Council Board of Trustees, and Founder of the Center for Rural Enterprise and Environmental Justice Catherine Coleman Flowers said, "I am thankful to all who heard the plea for help and responded. Today's announcement in Mount Vernon is exemplary of the state's commitment to sanitation justice for all."
The innovative State-County-City partnership was memorialized in a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) to expedite priority projects and outline roles, responsibilities, and available funding for this city-wide effort. The memo formalizes the three-way partnership between the city of Mount Vernon, Westchester County, and the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC), representing multiple state agencies, including the use of $7 million in Clean Water Infrastructure Act funds to immediately launch engineering, design, and construction of the Third Street Sewer Project. Work on projects across the city will take place in phases over five to seven years after a comprehensive assessment of the city's current infrastructure.
The State's Environmental Facilities Corporation (EFC) will provide $8 million to fund emergency repairs and jump start long-term planning for future projects, including lead pipe replacement. Funding includes a $5 million interest-free emergency loan and a $1 million grant to survey lead service lines in this community and to develop a replacement plan. EFC will also dedicate $2 million for engineering consultant services to accelerate work in this community. Additionally, Mount Vernon, DEC and EFC have committed to undertake an asset management program that will inventory, assess and track the city's clean water infrastructure and help create a plan to fund and maintain Mount Vernon's water quality infrastructure over the long-term.
The Governor's Office of Storm Recovery will supplement the public infrastructure improvements with a $3 million pilot program to mitigate environmental hazards and make resiliency upgrades to private property. Participating homes will be eligible for rehabilitation of damaged pipes, replacement of lead service lines, and other needed environmental remediation.
In too many communities of color like Mount Vernon, critical water infrastructure has been left to fall into disrepair, but today we are setting an example for the nation by advancing environmental justice.
Department of Environmental Conservation Commissioner Basil Seggos said, "Governor Hochul's historic $150 million investment to improve the city of Mount Vernon's water infrastructure is a critical step in helping make this community whole after generations of neglect and disinvestment. I'm proud to stand shoulder to shoulder with our partners in the city of Mount Vernon and Westchester County, as well as our colleagues at Environmental Facilities Corporation, Department of Health, and Governor's Office of Storm Recovery, to kick-off the Third Street Sewer Project, which marks the start of New York State's multi-year, multi-agency commitment to replace aging infrastructure throughout the city."
New York State Environmental Facilities Corporation President and CEO Maureen A. Coleman said, "This project is a prime example of the positive, tangible outcomes for people and communities that result when government works together. This partnership and significant State investment highlight Governor Hochul's commitment to using innovative solutions to upgrade and protect critical infrastructure, mitigate impacts from climate change, and address the environmental, public health and quality of life concerns of historically overburdened communities. EFC celebrates this initiative and remains dedicated to providing the necessary financial resources to local governments to ensure they have the modern, responsive water services that are essential to a healthy and thriving community."
New York State Health Commissioner Dr. Mary T. Bassett said, "Health equity begins with unfettered access to basic human needs such as clean drinking water and reliable waste disposal. With this investment, Governor Hochul is righting decades of wrongs by prioritizing communities like Mount Vernon that historically have not had the necessary resources to implement projects that result in healthier standards of living that all New Yorkers deserve."
Governor's Office of Storm Recovery Executive Director Katie Brennan said, "Top-down resources require bottom-up planning and partnership to build safe and resilient communities, and we are ready to work hand in glove with the County and City to deliver on Governor Hochul's commitment to address longstanding inequities in housing. This historic initiative will not only provide critical upgrades to the City's public infrastructure, but will pilot an investment directly in the homes of Mount Vernon residents."
Regional Administrator for EPA Region 2 Lisa F. Garcia said, "The Biden-Harris Administration has supercharged State Revolving Funds to create jobs while upgrading America's aging water infrastructure and addressing key challenges like aging sewage treatment infrastructure and lead in drinking water similar to those in communities like Mount Vernon. Moving forward and under a distinct funding mechanism, the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law will help fund work like this and is nothing short of transformational. It is the single largest investment in water infrastructure that the federal government has ever made."
By entering into the MOU with New York State and the County, the City of Mount Vernon is taking a critical step to resolving longstanding violations of the Clean Water Act under a Federal Consent Decree.
Senator Charles Schumer said, "Today's $150 million investment in Mount Vernon's water infrastructure is exactly the kind of project that I envisioned when pushing the infrastructure and jobs bill. For too long Mount Vernon has suffered from underinvestment, leading to aging pipes, public health risks, and the threat of toxic sewage backups in homes every time it rains. I was proud to fight for Mount Vernon residents in Washington to right this wrong, and proud we delivered millions in a down payment to push this project forward. Today's historic partnership, with Governor Hochul, tied to multiple federal pots of money, is why I fought so hard to deliver local aid in the American Rescue plan and historic investments in water infrastructure."
Senator Kirsten Gillibrand said, "Every New Yorker deserves access to clean, safe drinking water. This funding brings us one step closer to making that a reality. I applaud Governor Hochul's historic investment in this project and will keep fighting for funding to upgrade New York's water infrastructure."
Representative Jamaal Bowman said, "The water infrastructure of Mount Vernon creates severe, long standing water and public health inequities across the city. This $168 million investment is an essential investment into Mount Vernon to improve and repair the systems currently in place. This funding builds upon the $3 million in combined FY2022 Community Project Funding I secured along with Majority Leader Chuck Schumer for water sewer infrastructure repairs and improvements. Today, we are that much closer to comprehensively addressing a longstanding infrastructure need in our community."
Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins said, "Mount Vernon residents deserve infrastructure that delivers reliable access to clean drinking water and safe sanitation. I worked closely with Governor Hochul, Mayor Patterson-Howard, County Executive Latimer and our Westchester Senate delegation to deliver this critical funding to modernize Mount Vernon's aging wastewater infrastructure. This historic investment will be a significant boost to launch the Third Street Sewer Project and will strengthen Mount Vernon's clean water infrastructure so that it will be more resilient. I thank Governor Hochul for prioritizing this essential investment to revitalize Mount Vernon's public infrastructure and improve the quality of life for all its residents."
State Senator Jamaal T. Bailey said, "Investing in the infrastructure of Mount Vernon is integral to advancing environmental justice. This historic funding will be transformative for our residents who have for decades struggled with crumbling water infrastructure and a sewer system in severe disrepair and deterioration. With renewed investment and partnership, the City of Mount Vernon can begin to advance desperately-needed repairs and rebuild a system that will continue to serve the needs of our City well into the future. I want to thank Governor Kathy Hochul, Mount Vernon Mayor Shawyn Patterson-Howard, Westchester County Executive George Latimer, and New York State Department of Environmental Conservation Commissioner Basil Seggos for prioritizing this funding for Mount Vernon."
Assemblymember J. Gary Pretlow said, "With this historic partnership, the City of Mount Vernon can now begin the important work of modernizing our water and sewer systems. Infrastructure investments are often the largest commitment a community can make. With storm flooding and sewage overflow that have been plaguing many of our city homes for so long, this partnership will alleviate the financial challenges our city has been facing to maintain, repair and replace aging infrastructure."
In December, the Governor announced a $10 million Water Quality Improvement Project (WQIP) program grant award from DEC to Mount Vernon that will improve water quality in the Hutchinson River by upgrading one portion of the city's municipal wastewater outfalls to prevent the discharge of raw sewage. This grant advances work required by the Federal Consent Decree. DEC also awarded a $75,000 Non-Point Planning Grant to support the mapping of Mount Vernon's municipal separate storm sewer systems to prevent polluted runoff from affecting local communities and the environment. In addition, EFC provided two Engineering Planning Grants totaling $200,000 in 2021. Additional State investments to help address Mount Vernon's wastewater infrastructure challenges include a $1.6 million WQIP grant awarded in 2016.
The Fiscal Year 2023 Enacted Budget builds upon New York State's commitments by including more than half a billion dollars in direct investment into clean water initiatives, including:
- $500 million in clean water infrastructure funding, bringing the State's total clean water investment to $4.5 billion since 2017;
- $400 million - a record level of funding - for the Environmental Protection Fund to support critical projects that work to mitigate the effects of climate change, improve agricultural resources, protect water sources, advance conservation efforts and provide recreational opportunities;
- $4.2 billion for the landmark Clean Water, Clean Air, and Green Jobs Environmental Bond Act. If approved by voters this fall, this historic initiative will provide the support New York State needs to protect and improve our water resources, restore critical environmental habitats, reduce flood risks, conserve additional lands and open spaces, and invest in climate change mitigation projects that will reduce pollution and lower carbon emissions; and
- Additional water quality protections with essential improvements to the State's wetlands protection program, safeguarding an estimated one million additional acres of unprotected wetlands habitat and helping New York adapt to increased flooding and severe storms fueled by climate change.
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