Protecting the water quality and reducing the phosphorus level in the reservoirs are some of the top priorities of several towns in Westchester and Putnam counties.
Besides being mandated to implement a number of costly programs, 10 northern Westchester towns have entered an inter-municipal agreement (IMA) to receive money to help pay for federally-mandated stormwater retrofits.
, Westchester County Board of Legislators approved the release of up to $10 million grant funding from the East of Hudson (EOH) Water Quality Improvement Program.
"You're nothing without clean water," said Mary Beth Murphy, Northern Westchester Watershed Committee Chair and Somers supervisor. "Clean water is important to all of us. The value of your home is nothing if you don't have clean water. We all recognize the value of clean water."
Murphy, along with Westchester county executive Robert P. Astorino and several members of NWWC gathered at the on Tuesday to announce the agreement with the New York City Department of Environmental Protection that will cut the time it takes to complete $10 million in clean water projects.
The project time is expected to be reduced by months by streamlining approvals through a single management process.
"We've got to be better with the resources we have and this is an opportunity for projects that are designed for water quality to get them done faster," Astorino said.
The streamlining would be done by taking the county planning department and the board of legislators out of the approval process, which Astorino said could normally delay a project for about a year.
"This agreement shows how different levels of government can and should work together to deliver services faster, better and cheaper," Astorino said. "This is good government at work."
Members of the Northern Westchester Watershed Committee had brokered the deal with the county to use the money, obtained from the New York City East of Hudson Water Quality Fund. The money is to pay for dozens of water quality improvement projects in northern Westchester that are designed to protect New York City’s drinking water supply.
The town of Somers obtained a grant from the Department of Environmental Conservation and worked with towns including Bedford, New Castle, Lewisboro and Yorktown to identify five-year projects to fulfill the mandate. Additional matching grant funds secured from the DEC for mapping and retrofits help relieve taxpayers of the burden.
"We cannot put the burden on our taxpayers," Murphy said. "We are just not going to do it. They're already overburdened."
The stormwater regulations stem from the 1997 memorandum of agreement signed by Westchester County to protect New York City's drinking water supply, which serves almost 9 million New Yorkers. About 80,000 county residents also receive their water from the watershed's 19 reservoirs.
The Municipal Separate Storm Sewer Systems requirements mandate that towns and villages in New York control and cleanse stormwater runoff, whether coming from municipal or private property, that will make its way into the surface waters.
"For every drop of rain that falls in each of our towns, we are required to have a permit in order to process that," Murphy said. "And that permit mandates that we do a whole bunch of different things."
Astorino said on Tuesday that town supervisors and town board members will have to make those decisions for the projects that are needed.
The funds that will pay for in the watershed include:
- Stormwater retrofits like retention basins designed to reduce contaminants in the water supply
- Creation of a database to monitor the inspection and pumping of septic systems
- Mapping the path of stormwater, to detect and eliminate pollutants it can carry
For a list of the $10 million in projects (as provided by the county) can be found in the pdf file attached to this article above.
The 10 towns that entered into the agreement to help pay for program costs resulting from reducing phosphorus in the New York City water supply are Bedford, Cortlandt, Lewisboro, Mount Kisco, New Castle, North Castle, North Salem, Pound Ridge, Somers and Yorktown.
Lisa Buchman contributed to this report.