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$500M Set for Sandy-Hit Water Works

Friday, May 10, 2013

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Water-treatment facilities across New York and New Jersey will receive more than $500 million to tackle repairs and upgrades desperately needed after Hurricane Sandy, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has announced.

The EPA says it will provide $340 million in grants to the state of New York and $229 million to the state of New Jersey to improve wastewater and drinking-water treatment facilities ravaged by the storm Oct. 29, 2012.

While that is a lot of money, it will fall far short of what the states need. Sandy swamped the region's sewage treatment facilities, flushing more than 11 billion gallons of untreated and partially treated sewage into rivers, bays and even streets, according to a new report by the environmental group Climate Control.

Bay Park Sewage Treatment Plant Western Long Island South Shore Estuary
Doug Kuntz / Climate Central

Sandy dumped more than 11 billion gallons of sewage into waterways and streets. One overflow location (68 billion gallons) from the Bay Park Sewage Treatment Plant was adjacent to the Western Long Island South Shore Estuary.

In New Jersey alone, Sandy damaged more than 100 facilities supplying drinking water to residents and sewage treatment plants, and the state has estimated that those repairs and upgrades will cost $2.6 billion.

'The Numbers are Staggering'

"Our challenges are staggering,'' New jersey Department of Environmental Protection Commissioner Bob Martin said last month at an annual meeting of the New Jersey Clean Water Council.

The toll includes the complete flooding of the Passaic Valley Sewerage Commission, the fifth-largest wastewater treatment plant in the nation, which dumped hundreds of millions of gallons of raw sewage into state waterways.

"The numbers are staggering," said DEP assistant commissioner Michele Siekerka. "It's quite a daunting task to get it together."

New York City alone reported six sewage spills larger than 100 million gallons, and 28 larger than 1 million gallons, according to the Climate Council report.

'Another Critical Step' in Recovery

Water systems in those states were so severely damaged that some could not provide safe drinking water or treat raw sewage, the EPA said.

Houses wrecked by Sandy

Hurricane Sandy was the largest storm to hit the northeast U.S. in recorded history, killing 159 people and causing $70 billion in damage in eight states.

The federal funding announced May 2 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 future storms similar to Sandy.  

“As communities continue to recover following Hurricane Sandy’s devastation, it’s important that their efforts to rebuild our infrastructure such as wastewater and drinking water facilities are approached in a sustainable way,” said Acting EPA Administrator Bob Perciasepe.

“These funds are another critical step in the administration’s ongoing effort to help New York and New Jersey recover and move forward in a way that ensures local communities are stronger than ever before.”

Making the Vulnerable Resilient

The funds, which will be provided to the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation and New Jersey DEP, were authorized by the $60 billion aid package (Disaster Relief Appropriations Act of 2013) 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.

Ortley Beach, NJ
Rosanna Arias/FEMA

Three months after Sandy, construction workers were still repairing a water main damaged by the storm as part of the infrastructure recovery for Ortley Beach, NJ.

“With extreme weather conditions increasingly becoming the norm, Congress wisely provided funding to make sure our wastewater and drinking water facilities can withstand Hurricane Sandy-sized storms,” said EPA Regional Administrator Judith A. Enck. "This funding will help vulnerable communities in New Jersey and New York become more resilient to the effects of climate change.”

Distribution Criteria

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 repaid to the states. Up to 30 percent of the money can be awarded as grants, rather than loans, to communities.

Almost 60 percent of the funds will go to New York and about 40 percent to New Jersey. The allocation was based on the percentage of the population living in counties designated for federal disaster assistance.

New Jersey and New York will select the projects using priority ranking systems that are based on elements of state and federal laws. The highest rankings will be given to proposals that will most ensure water quality or provide the most protection to drinking water systems.

Water sampling
U.S. Water Alliance

The U.S. Geological Survey continued to sample and monitor water quality testing throughout the stricken mid-Atlantic region weeks after Sandy.

Projects may also incorporate green infrastructure, such as wetlands and detention basins to collect stormwater 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.

Application Process

The states will review proposed projects from impacted communities and 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). EPA will then evaluate the intended-use plans and award the grants to the states.

The funds were authorized under the Disaster Relief Appropriations Act, which provided EPA with $500 million for the Clean Water State Revolving Fund and $100 million for the Drinking Water State Revolving Fund. The funding 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.

Today’s funding complements the efforts of the Hurricane Sandy Rebuilding Task Force created by Obama. The Task Force works closely with federal, state and local officials to help communities address rebuilding challenges, use funding as effectively as possible, and provide oversight for funding.


In New Jersey alone, damage to water treatment infrastructure caused by Hurricane Sandy was estimated at $2.6 billion, with more than 100 facilities damaged.

Other Sandy Aid

Other federal rebuilding support is also in the pipeline. Among the efforts:

  • The Federal Emergency Management Agency has obligated more than $1 billion to support state and local rebuilding efforts. It has also disbursed more than $1.3 billion directly to impacted families, covering eligible repair costs and meeting temporary housing needs.
  • The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development has approved disaster recovery plans for New York and New Jersey, making $3.5 billion available for home and small-business owners.
  • The U.S. Small Business Administration has provided more than $2 billion in disaster loans to homeowners and small businesses.
  • The Federal Transit Administration’s Emergency Relief Program has allocated $2 billion in funding and the Federal Highway Administration’s Emergency Relief Program has allocated $584 million to repair and rebuild damaged infrastructure.
  • The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services has allocated $474 million in Social Services Block Grants to help provide services to survivors and rebuild damaged health care facilities.

More information about the federal government’s response to Sandy is available here. More information on the EPA’s response to Sandy is available here.


Tagged categories: Construction; Economy; Environmental Protection; Environmental Protection Agency (EPA); Government contracts; Program/Project Management; Wastewater Plants

Comment from regis doucette, (5/10/2013, 5:29 AM)

In the haste to restore life back to “business as usual”, many structures exposed to salt water have not been adequately remediated from soluble salt contamination from those floods. It is sad that only a handful of insurance adjusters have included that necessary step to “restore the structure to pre-storm conditions” free from chloride and sulfate contamination, which is the most basic principle of insurance claims. Rinsing with city water is not adequate to remove the chlorides and sulfates. Where documented, the levels far exceeded established standards by entities such as the US Army Corps of Engineers and US Navy that deal with salt water intrusion on a regular basis. Already the consequences are manifesting themselves with premature coating failures and corrosion in unanticipated locations AFTER THEY REPAIRED with the insurance money. What this sadly means, in most cases, is that the victims of the storm will be victimized a SECOND time with premature coating failures, shortened life cycle of the repairs, and corrosion from non-visible contaminants, but this time it will be on their own dime. Our industry should have taken a more forceful position to apprise our “society” that they were afflicted with a serious problem that needs addressing in the same way that the CDC warns society of bad infections plaguing our human bodies.

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