April 26, 2017
Albany, NY

Video, Photos & Rush Transcript: Governor Cuomo Signs Legislation Investing $2.5 Billion in Clean Water Infrastructure and Water Quality Protection

TOP Video, Photos & Rush Transcript: Governor...

Includes Over $1.5 Billion in Grants for Local Governments to Improve Water Infrastructure
Creates $75 Million Septic System Rebate Program for Homeowners and Small Businesses to Upgrade their Septic Systems

Provides $40 Million to Build Sewer Systems in Smithtown and Kings Park

Supports Expedited Cleanup of Gabreski Air National Guard Base and Accelerated Investigation of the Navy/Northrup Grumman Plume


Earlier today, Governor Andrew M. Cuomo signed the Clean Water Infrastructure Act – a $2.5 billion investment in drinking water infrastructure, clean water infrastructure and water quality protection across New York. This bold investment builds on the Governor's record of environmental leadership and will help local governments pay for local infrastructure construction projects, address water emergencies, and investigate and mitigate emerging contaminants to ensure access to clean, drinkable water for all New Yorkers.

This includes over $1.5 billion in grants for water infrastructure improvements and creates a $75 million rebate program to give homeowners and small businesses an incentive to replace and upgrade aging septic systems. In addition to traditional infrastructure, funds are also available for 'green' infrastructure, with $110 million dedicated for source water protection initiatives, including land acquisition.

VIDEO of the remarks is available on YouTube here and in TV quality (h264 format) here.

AUDIO of the event is available here.

PHOTOS of the event will be available on the Governor’s Flickr page.

A rush transcript of the Governor’s remarks is available below.

Governor Cuomo: Thank you. Thank you very much. Thank you very much. It is my pleasure to be back, it’s always a pleasure to be on Long Island. It’s always a pleasure to be with County Executive Steve Bellone who is doing a great job, let’s give him a big round of applause. County Executive Ed Mangano, pleasure to be with you Ed. We have my colleagues from Albany, the assembly and the senate, but you’re going to hear from Senate Majority Leader John Flanagan, pleasure to be with you Senator Flanagan. Assemblyman Englebright, who is chair of the environmental committee, pleasure to be with you.

We have just finished the state budget. This was, first of all – the budget is more than just the budget. It sounds like just the budget, it’s just a sheet of numbers that should be relatively easy. But the state budget is actually an operating plan for the entire state for the entire year. When you go through the state budget process, it’s about $152 billion and you have to decide where you spend $152 billion and how you spend $152 million.

Surprise it or not, sometimes there’s a difference of opinion between the assembly and the senate and the executive. You know, they’re wrong a lot, and it’s my position to have to deal with them. But we went through probably one of the more difficult processes this year. It was a difficult birth, but it was actually a beautiful baby once it was born. I think of all the budgets and of all the plans we’ve done, this is probably the most ambitious and does the most work for the people of the state of New York. I’m very, very proud of it. There are a lot of issues that we need to address, that’s one of the reasons why the budget was more difficult this year because if you want to be responsible and you want to attack the problems, there are problems everywhere you turn it seems, nowadays.

That’s what went on with the budget. When you look at the result of the budget, we are very, very proud of what we did. You see more funding for education than ever before in the history of the state of New York, which we’re very proud of. We do more for affordable housing than ever before, we reformed workers comp which is so important because it’s such a burden on local businesses. It’s the largest funding for transportation and infrastructure in the state’s history so we can have a Long Island Railroad that you can actually take you can get to Penn Station and it doesn’t seem like you’re visiting the catacombs when you get to Penn Station.

We’re very, very proud of all the work it does and it has a historic water quality initiative, which is what we’re here to talk about today. I want to thank Senator Flanagan, I want to thank his colleagues, I want to thank the entire Long Island delegation that was instrumental in putting together this water quality initiative. It’s $2.5 billion, that is a lot of funding especially during these times. But it’s that important an issue. It is probably no more sensitive than on Long Island where the problem has been developing. We’ve seen it been developing. County Executive Bellone and County Executive Mangano have been very aggressive and they’ve been on top of it, the state has been their partner all along. But Senator Flanagan and Assemblyman Englebright and the delegation said, we want to do more than just play catch up. Let’s come up with a comprehensive solution that actually makes a meaningful difference for generations to come. I want to thank them for that. Let’s give a round of applause to Senator Flanagan and Assemblyman Englebright.

One of the other things that you’ll see in this budget is it also controls spending, which is important. Taxes in New York State are one of the great problems that we face.

You look at young people who are leaving New York, you look at businesses who are leaving New York and they all say the same thing, which is they can’t afford the taxes anymore. People are mobile, businesses are mobile and when taxes get to a certain point, people and businesses will leave and it’s that simple. Controlling taxes is a simple formula. You want to control taxes you have to control spending. You want to reduce taxes you have to reduce spending. So the formula is simple. The formula for losing weight is simple. You want to lose weight take in fewer calories, burn more and you will lose weight. The formula is simple it’s the implementation that winds up problematic. It’s the same with government.

So this budget actually cuts taxes once again because it has one of the lowest increases in state spending in history believe it or not. A two percent spending increase, which is why we can reduce taxes and we are going to do a middle class tax cut to the lowest rate in over 70 years for the middle class, and within that are all these major initiatives I talked about. On water quality, the quality of the water, our water is increasingly under threat. This is not just in New York, it is all across the station. Other states are coming to grips with it, but it’s especially a problem here on Long Island. First of all, the water infrastructure is old. Like all of our infrastructure. We’re living off the legacy not of our parents, but of our grandparents.

Ask yourself when we undertook a big transportation project, we built a road, we built a tunnel, we built a new water system. We don’t do it. We’ve been living off our legacy and our legacy is now old and needs repair. You see it all across the country where you have breakdowns from the consequences of an old system. New York State, 25 percent of our 610 sewage treatment plants are beyond their useful life and we have new threats that we are just discovering. We know that we had a history in manufacturing and industry, and we know that the manufacturing industry left a residue in the ground but we’re finding now more and more new chemicals that we’ve never tested for before that are potentially dangerous. Or we’re finding chemicals that are potentially dangerous for which the federal government hasn’t yet set an allowable consumption rate. And this is going to be getting worse over time.

EPA frankly in my opinion, we’ve sent them a number of correspondence that say they’re not being responsive enough to these new discoveries. New chemicals that we believe are dangerous but they won’t tell us by their testing what percent is allowable. And this is continuing to evolve. It’s especially urgent on Long Island because of the geography of Long Island. It’s all sand. And everything that is spilled, all the rain, all the ground water goes right through the sand and it accumulates. It accumulates in the soil aquifer which is Long Island and there it sits.

So Long Island poses particular threats state wide. We also have 99 superfund sites that are being remediated on Long Island so we have that as an added pressure. We also have the North Roman Facility in Bethpage that we know dumped toxic chemicals into the ground water over an extended period of time. We know they are in the ground water and I wanted to thank Joe Saladino in his great work in staying on this issue because it is a serious issue that needs attention. Same with Gabreski International Guard Base. We know that they used foam that had PFOS in the foam and we know that PFOS is still in the ground. We have 85 landfills that were done before the modern requirements and they are no longer operational but they are landfills that are now leeching into the groundwater. We have inadequate sewer service infrastructure all across the island. And we have old septic and cesspools that leak nitrogen and pollutants. You also have saltwater intrusion into the groundwater which is another complicating factor. And this is not just a challenge for us. This is a challenge that if we don’t solve it, we are going to pass it on to our children.

So the New York way is not to pass the buck, and not to deny the problem, the New York way is to stand up and rise to the challenge and that is what we’re going to do with a comprehensive multifaceted action plan. And we’re going to focus on Long Island and Long Island’s unique challenges. Now we’re not new to the problem. As I mentioned, the County Executives have been working on it. We’ve been working in partnership, we’ve been spending a lot of money in partnership with the county. But we’re now going to take it to the next level. We’re going to accelerate our plan for the Navy Northrup Grumman site. And we want a plan that has full remediation and containment of that plume. We know the plume is dangerous, we know the plume is moving. We know there is nothing at this point that is going to stop the plume from interfering with water systems. We need a plan to stop the plume, and we want to fund it from this $2.5 billion.

At Gabreski we have the same basic problem, we are taking the homes that are near the site and we are putting them on municipal water systems. Taking the private wells and putting them on municipal water systems and coming up with a remediation plan. Same thing on the inactive landfills. We are investigating them to see if they are leeching into the groundwater. If they are, we will need to remediate those landfills. County Executive Bellone has a very ambitious plan for sewers in Suffolk. We’ve invested $380 million which will connect 10,000 homes to sanitary sewer systems.

In Nassau County we have the Bay Park treatment facility which has been polluting the bays for years and years. We’ve talked about it, we’ve done nothing. County Executive Mangano has stepped up to the plate, taken aggressive action. We have a novel plan that we’re working on that will actually connect the Bay Park to the Cedar Creek plant and would treat the waste that way. It would be about a $250 million plan which is still expensive but it would be a fraction of what it would be to correct the Bay Park plant by any other methodology and it would make a significant difference to the quality of our bays so we want to thank County Executive Mangano for that.

The, in August we announced our plan to fight the federal designation of a new permanent disposal site for open water dumping. They went ahead and the EPA approved that ocean dumping. Today we’re announcing that we’re going to file a suit against the EPA and we’re going to challenge their ruling next month because it was destructive to Long Island.

And this state budget doubles our commitment going forward. $2.5 billion, which again was a bipartisan, nonpartisan program that we put together. And I want to thank my colleagues. It’s a landmark investment in our water infrastructure. It focusses on community driven solutions and local government. This is not Albany telling communities what they should do. It’s communities saying this is where we need help, please partner with us. And we will invest with those communities. It will have, as I mentioned, significant impact on Long Island. It creates a $75 million rebate program to give homeowners and small businesses an incentive to replace aging septic. DEC, and we have Commissioner Basil Seggos with us today, the DEC Commissioner, I’d like to thank him. We’ll identify priority areas working with the county where septic is especially a problem.

This program will fund up to $10,000 for a homeowner or a business to upgrade their own septic system and provide the incentive for them to do that. Starting today municipalities can submit grant applications to improve their drinking water and wastewater infrastructure in any way that they need that improvement. If it’s new pipes, if it’s a new treatment facility, a new pumping station, whatever it is, we’ll partner with that. We also have in this budget two local sewer systems in Suffolk. $40 million to build a new sewer treatment in Smithtown and in Kings Park. So congratulations on that, because those are two necessary projects.

This year’s budget requires that water systems now test for unregulated contaminates like 1,4-dioxane, which is one of these new chemicals which we know can be dangerous. The federal government has not set a level for 1,4-dioxane, so they put the state and the community in a very bad position. This could be a very dangerous chemical, but we don’t know what the allowable percentage or presence or concentration of that chemical is. We have said to them on 1,4-dioxane, we’ll give the EPA two months to set a level for 1,4-dioxane, if they don’t set a level for 1,4-dioxane, we’ll put together a team of experts and we’ll establish that level ourselves. But we’re not going to allow our people to continue to drinking water that may be dangerous. And I hope that EPA acts, if they don’t, we’ll put together a drinking water council to do it ourselves.

The environmental protection fund will have $7.5 million dollars to protect Long Island’s water quality, including $2 million for the Pine Barrens to protect drinking water at its source, $900,000 to protect he Long Island South Shore Estuary Reserve, $3 million for Suffolk County and Stony Brook Center for clean water technology to develop advance septic treatment technologies to reduce nitrogen pollution, because that’s what we have to stop, we have to stop the nitrogen from entering into our bodies of water. Also, $5 million for Stony Brook’s University Center for Clean Water Technology to develop new treatment technologies. That will include an advanced oxidated process treatment to remove 1, 4-dioxane from the water supply, not only has the EPA not set a level for 1,4-dioxane, currently there is not filtration process proven to take 1,4-dioxane out of water and Stony Brook is working on a system and a technology with Suffolk County which will do just that, so we’re excited about it.

We are also undertaking a $6 million study if Long Island’s ground water with USGS to drill wells and analyze the water chemistry because we have to stop the salt water intrusion into our ground water and this will be a study to find a way to do just that. So when you look at the environmental protection fund and the drinking quality fund, you will see literally all across the island, the state is making the most significant investment it ever has. It’s the most multi-faceted, I also think it’s the wisest. It is a historic level of investment and I am going to sign the bill in just a moment that is going to make that a law and start this new program. But it’s who we are and it’s what we do.

Protecting the environment has always been a central mandate of this state. We have the most aggressive environmental policies of any state in the United States of America today and I’m proud of it. We have the highest renewable standard in the county and you take issues like water quality and we are no doubt leading the way and we’re raising the bar and we’re dealing with the issues that the other state have allowed just to stand by for too long. We’re showing the nation how to lead on an issue that is going to determine not just our future, but the future of the generations to come.

When it comes to the environment, there’s an old Native American proverb that says it all to me: “We do not inherit the earth from our parents, we are borrowing it from our children.” And as a citizen, as a parent, as a person who’s been put on this earth, we all have one responsibility, and every religion and every philosopher comes back to the same point: leave the place better than you found it. God gave you a time on earth, use your time to make this place a better place. For those of us in public service, government is the vehicle to make this place a better place, but our charge is to make this place better for our children than we found it. To leave it safer, to leave it cleaner, to leave it healthier. And when we leave it, were going to leave them a Long Island that is safer and cleaner than ever before and we are going to make sure the environment is cleaner than the earth and the Long Island that we inherited.

Thank you and god bless you.

Contact the Governor's Press Office
Contact the Governor's Press Office