Over a half billion dollars will help upgrade wastewater and drinking water facilities
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced that it will provide grants of $340 million to the state of New York and $229 million to the state of New Jersey for improvements to wastewater and drinking water treatment facilities impacted by Hurricane Sandy. The funding will help storm-damaged communities in both states as they continue to recover from the damage caused by the storm on Oct. 29, 2012.
In the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy, wastewater and drinking water treatment systems in New York and New Jersey were so severely damaged that some could not provide safe drinking water or treat raw sewage. The funding will give states the capacity to further reduce risks of flood damage and increase the resiliency of wastewater and drinking water facilities to withstand the effects of severe storms similar to Sandy.
These funds, which will be provided to the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation and the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection, were authorized by the Disaster Relief Appropriations Act of 2013 and signed into law by President Obama on Jan. 29, 2013. In addition to protecting drinking water systems and maintaining water quality, the funding will provide for 6,000 short-term construction jobs.
The funds will be awarded as grants to the states and most will be given out to local communities as low or no interest loans that will be paid back to the states. Up to 30% of the money can be awarded as grants to communities rather than as loans.
Almost 60% of the funds will go to New York and about 40% of the funds will go to New Jersey for both the Clean Water and Drinking Water State Revolving Fund programs. The determination of how the funds should be allotted to New Jersey and New York was based on the percentage of the population living in impacted counties that FEMA designated for disaster assistance.
Projects will be selected by the states of New Jersey and New York using project priority ranking systems that are based on elements of the Clean Water Act, the Safe Drinking Water Act, the Disaster Relief Appropriations Act and state regulations. The highest rankings will be given to proposed projects that will most ensure water quality or provide the most protection to drinking water systems. Applicants may submit projects that incorporate green infrastructure, such as wetlands and detention basins to collect storm water or natural features like sand dunes that are capable of mitigating storm water impacts; raise equipment from basements; and provide backup sources of energy that are renewable.
The states will review the proposed projects from impacted communities and then submit Intended use plans that include the recommended projects to EPA for review. The Intended use plans will be subject to public comment periods (30 days in New Jersey and 45 days in New York). Following these comment periods, EPA will evaluate the intended use plans and award the grants to the states.
The Disaster Relief Appropriations Act provided EPA with $500 million for the Clean Water State Revolving Fund and $100 million for the Drinking Water State Revolving Fund. The funding provided by the act is subject to sequestration, which has reduced the money available by $25 million for wastewater improvements and $5 million for drinking water. It also includes funding for EPA to administer the program.