News from the Board of Legislators:
Westchester Legislators Approve EOH Grant Funds for Drinking Water Protection
Votes, Including a Veto Override, Bolster Environmental Safety and Provide Tax Relief
White Plains, NY – The Westchester County Board of Legislators (BOL) voted to approve two separate measures recently that are meant to bolster environmental safety near the reservoirs in the northern part of the county. The legislative action will also provide tax relief to county taxpayers.
The first vote by the BOL authorizes release of up to $10 million grant funding from the East of Hudson (EOH) Water Quality Improvement Program to help a number of Towns in Westchester within the New York City Watershed finance implementation of stormwater retrofit plans.
The legislation was introduced in the BOL Environment & Energy Committee by BOL Majority Leader Peter Harckham (D-Katonah) to approve the funding for the municipalities and also authorize the County to enter into inter-municipal agreements (IMAs) with the municipalities for distribution of the grant monies.
“I’m pleased that my colleagues on the Board of Legislators agreed that to address an unfunded New York State environmental mandate, which ensures the safety of the drinking water for New York City, it had to help the municipalities in the Croton watershed shoulder the costs,” said Harckham. “The East of Hudson money gives these municipalities the ability to put projects in place that meet requirements set by the federal and state mandates without putting the cost on local taxpayers.”
The EOH funds will be provided to the Towns of Bedford, Cortlandt, Lewisboro, New Castle, North Castle, North Salem, Pound Ridge, Somers, Yorktown and the Village of Mount Kisco to meet U. S. Environmental Protection Agency Phase II Stormwater regulations, which requires each small municipal separate storm sewer system (“MS4”) to obtain a New York State Department of Environmental Conservation State Pollutant Discharge Elimination System permit for stormwater discharges because of high phosphorous levels.
The municipalities, all having land in the Croton watershed, first proposed the regional stormwater retrofit plan and also the use of the EOH funds, which are part of a County Trust Account created for the specific purpose of funding stormwater projects as such. The proposed IMAs used to deliver the funds locally will have a term of five years, and municipalities will oversee the projects and undertake the work.
The BOL also overrode County Executive Astorino’s veto to authorize the use of $1.08 million in EOH funds to partially finance the County portion of a drinking water protection project in the drainage basin of the Kensico Reservoir serving the Quarry Heights region of the Mamaroneck Valley Sanitary Sewage District (MVSD).
For decades, Westchester County officials recognized the existence of failing and substandard septic systems was contaminating the water quality in the Kensico watershed, from which thousands of Westchester residents get their drinking water.
Accordingly, the BOL authorized the County in 1999 to build a sewer system in the Quarry Heights of North Castle, an area within the Mamaroneck Valley Sanitary Sewer District, to eliminate the neighborhood as a source of contamination. Funds were placed in the capital budget for a substantial amount of the sewer construction, and in 2008 the County entered into IMAs with the Town of North Castle and Town / Village of Harrison to construct 53 separate sanitary sewer connections in the Quarry Heights area and to allow for the transmission of residential sanitary sewage to the Mamaroneck Wastewater Treatment Plant.
“The Quarry Heights project is all about protecting our drinking water in the Kensico reservoir and watershed,” said Legislator William Ryan (D-White Plains), who serves as Chairman of the BOL’s Public Works, Parks, Labor and Transportation (PWPLT) Committee. “This action by the Board, long after the construction was completed, reduces the cost of the project to the sewer district taxpayers.”
The overall cost of the project exceeded $3 million, with $2 million paid by the MVSD. The BOL’s vote now authorizes a $1 million reimbursement to the MVDS from the EOH funds.
“Fundamental fairness required us to take this action,” said Legislator Martin Rogowsky (D-Harrison), who worked on the Quarry Heights issue for four years. “It is satisfying to see that my efforts, despite the length of time involved, brought the Board to the point where we could provide this $1 million in property tax relief to our local taxpayers.”