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Feb 8, 2018 3:40 PMPublication: The Southampton Press

East Hampton Town, School Pollution Abatement Grants Rejected By State

The State Department of Environmental Conservation has rejected a grant application that would help pay for a sewer system in Montauk's business district.   PRESS FILE
Feb 13, 2018 11:04 AM

The proposed downtown Montauk sewer system and the Springs School both failed to win recently awarded multimillion-dollar wastewater improvement grants from the State Department of Environmental Conservation.

The town had requested $5 million in state funding as the seed money for the Montauk wastewater treatment system, which is projected to cost some $35 million in total, mostly funded through a special taxing district that the town is considering now.

But Pio Lombardo, the wastewater consultant who filed both the Montauk and Springs grant requests, said the reason he was given for the Montauk request not being granted was that the project was not “shovel ready”—even though the application criteria state that a supporting taxing district need only be created within 12 months of the grant award.

“Well, you’re clearly not going to be shovel ready if you are not establishing your district for up to 12 months,” Mr. Lombardo said this week. “Our goal was to form the district by June or July of this year, so that fit. So, needless to say, the reasons that we were told were inconsistent with the program rules.”

Mr. Lombardo said that the reason for the rejection of the Springs School request for $1.75 million was even more curious.

The state, he said, claimed that a spelling error had led its grant reviewers to believe that Accabonac Harbor is not an “impaired” water body, one of the criteria for the grant. The state apparently spelled the name of the harbor—which is, in fact, listed as impaired by the DEC and is partially closed to shellfish harvesting because of high bacteria levels—with a “k” at the end.

“We pointed out that the report we submitted documented all of that,” Mr. Lombardo said with a sigh at the seemingly bizarre reasoning offered by the state on each application. “But we expect another set of rounds in the next few months, so there’s still time for getting them.”

The Springs School’s decades-old septic system has been determined to be “failing” and leaching wastewater into groundwater that flows directly into Accabonac Harbor, which lies just a few hundred feet away.

Mr. Lombardo said that new applications for state grants are expected to be due by July and, despite the 12-month window in the grant criteria, he’s recommended that the town establish a wastewater treatment taxing district by then to strengthen the town’s request even more.

Supervisor Peter Van Scoyoc said that schedule is optimistic but that town officials are actively working with Montauk business owners on an approach that could set the district on the path to creation.

Once established, the wastewater treatment district would tax landowners served by the sewer system according to the amount of wastewater they generate.

Many of the downtown’s businesses have failing septic systems that require nearly constant maintenance and have contributed to chronic water pollution issues at beaches and enclosed water bodies throughout the hamlet.

But there are a variety of factors determining whether property owners will see the district as affordable.

“Forty percent of the flow is generated by the ‘front row,’ but we have a hamlet plan that says you’re going to phase out the front row over time, so that’s something we have to consider,” Mr. Van Scoyoc said, referring to the recently completed study of Montauk that recommended that a handful of large resorts that dominate the downtown’s oceanfront be relocated over the coming decades to take into account rising sea levels. “We’re looking at whether assigning equivalent development units, to give them a little skin in the game and help with redevelopment elsewhere in the future, would make it work.

“It’s all very new and evolving,” the supervisor added.

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"It's all very new and evolving" says Van Scoyac. Thats a coming from the Supervisor who has been involved in sewerage/waste water problems since he was on the Planning Board, as a Councilman and now as Supervisor. Not very comforting. And Pio, regardless of how many applications he shepards, continues to get paid. Not very comforting as well.
By pluff (44), East Hampton on Feb 9, 18 4:15 PM
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