clubhouse, east hampton, indoor, tennis, cornhole, bar, happy hour, bowling, mini golf

Story - News

Jul 9, 2018 6:13 PMPublication: The Southampton Press

Cuomo Makes Up For Typo Error With $1.3 Million Grant For Springs School Septics

The Springs School, with Accabonac Harbor in the background, will get $1.3 million from New York State to replace its septic system with one that removes nitrogen from wastewater.
Jul 10, 2018 12:35 PM

Governor Andrew Cuomo announced on Monday that the state will give the Springs School a $1.33 million grant to help fund the replacement of the school’s crumbling septic system with one that filters out nitrogen.

The grant money, which will come from a $2.5 billion clean water infrastructure fund that the governor’s office created last year, likely would cover nearly all of the projected costs of replacing the school’s septic system as recommended by wastewater engineer Pio Lombardo.

In February, the State Department of Environmental Conservation rejected an application by the school for a $1.75 million grant—which included the $1.32 million cost of the new septic system, plus “contingencies”—because of what the state said was a misunderstanding due to a spelling error: The body of water near the school, Accabonac Harbor, was misspelled and thus not found in a search of a list of impaired water bodies. The governor’s grant award would appear to make up for that error.

“Investing in water infrastructure is critical to protecting our resources and laying the foundation for future growth and prosperity,” Mr. Cuomo said in a statement released by his campaign on Monday. “This funding will help to continue this administration’s commitment to rebuilding our infrastructure and creating a stronger New York for all.”

The Springs School, which sits barely 200 feet from the headwaters of Accabonac Harbor, has been wrestling with its aged and failing septics for more than a year. The system has had to be pumped out repeatedly and has been determined to be leaching waste water into groundwater that flows into the harbor. It is believed to be causing high ammonia levels in the harbor and adding to already high nitrogen loads emanating from dense residential neighborhoods nearby.

“This project will not only enhance the ecosystem in our community, as well as on Long Island, but will also be financially beneficial to our taxpayers,” Springs School District Superintendent Debra Winter said. “We are extremely thankful to be awarded this grant to significantly improve our wastewater treatment system and are delighted that Springs will be one of the first schools to use a large-scale nitrogen-reducing septic system.”

The system recommended by Mr. Lombardo for the school would scrub nitrogen out of the waste water, primarily urine, before releasing it into the ground. Such systems can reduce nitrogen in waste water to as little as 3 milligrams per liter of discharge, whereas standard systems in schools can leave 125 milligrams per liter or more in their discharge.

Nitrogen from human waste that has been allowed to seep into groundwater from cesspools and ineffective septic systems has been fingered by scientists as a primary driver of the explosion of harmful algae blooms in tidal and freshwater bodies across Long Island in the last 30 years.

In February, the DEC had left Springs School off its list of grant awards. In an explanation of why the school’s grant application was passed over, the state said that the school was not near an “impaired” water body. State officials later told Mr. Lombardo that they had searched for “Accabonack Harbor,” not Accabonac, leading them to not realize that the harbor near the school was, indeed, listed on their own roster of impaired waters.

State officials immediately began lobbying for the error to be remedied and apparently won the support of the governor in doing so.

“The upgrade of the Springs School septic system with a new innovative wastewater treatment system is exactly why the New York State Legislature approved the $2.5 Billion Clean Water Infrastructure Act,” State Assemblyman Fred W. Thiele Jr. said. “In the end, the winners are Accabonac Harbor’s water quality, the school children who will benefit from a modern school, and the Springs taxpayers who will see their costs reduced by $1.33 million in state aid.”

You've read 1 of 7 free articles this month.

Already a subscriber? Sign in