A.G. Schneiderman & DEC Commissioner Martens Announce Agreement With NYC Directing $960,000 To Clean Water Projects In Upper East River And Long Island Sound

Funding From Penalties Assessed For City Falling Behind Legally Required Schedule For Improving Nitrogen Pollution Control At Wastewater Treatment Plants

NEW YORK -- Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman and New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) Commissioner Joseph Martens today announced an agreement with New York City that will direct $960,000 to improving water quality in the upper East River and Long Island Sound.   The City’s funding is in partial resolution of penalties assessed against it by the State for falling behind schedule in upgrading nitrogen pollution controls at its Tallman Island wastewater treatment plant in Queens. The schedule is included in a legal agreement between the State and City that requires the City to upgrade nitrogen controls at eight of its 14 wastewater treatment plants.  

“New Yorkers place a tremendous value on clean water,” said Attorney General Schneiderman. “Through this agreement, we are working with New York City to continue to reduce pollution discharges and to improve the health of the East River and Long Island Sound.  By committing to these investments today, we are enriching the public’s use and enjoyment of these waters for generations to come.”   

“The upgrade of the Tallman Island wastewater treatment plant, along with the other three City wastewater treatment plants that discharge to the Upper East River, represents the single largest investment to reduce nitrogen in the Long Island Sound,” DEC Commissioner Joe Martens said. “This upgrade, along with the upgrade of the City’s Hunts Point, Wards Island and Bowery Bay wastewater treatment plants, concludes the first Phase of the nitrogen removal required under the judgment.  DEC is pleased to report that the City’s treatment plants are already meeting the next step-down nitrogen limit that takes effect on August 1, 2014.  The judgment also requires the completion of the second Phase nitrogen removal projects by July 1, 2016 which will ensure that the final total maximum daily load limits by January 1, 2017.”

According to the agreement announced today, the City will spend no less than $960,000 on one or more environmental benefit projects to improve water quality in and around the upper East River and Long Island Sound. Although the court-ordered agreement does not specify particular projects, the State and City have agreed in principle that the City will use the money to restore an area of tidal wetland in Alley Pond Park in Queens, which is near the Tallman Island plant. Saltwater wetlands absorb nitrogen, while providing habitat, recreational opportunities and other environmental benefits. 

In 2006, the DEC and New York City Department of Environmental Protection entered into a court-ordered agreement – known as the Nitrogen Consent Judgment – for reducing the discharge of nitrogen pollution from City’s four upper East River wastewater treatment plants and plants located on Jamaica Bay. Excessive nitrogen in discharges can cause algae blooms that deplete oxygen in receiving waters, harming fish and other aquatic life. The Nitrogen Consent Judgment requires the City to upgrade its upper East River wastewater treatment plants with improved technologies to remove nitrogen, in accordance with a schedule that includes specified milestones.   

Today’s agreement modifies the Nitrogen Consent Judgment, as amended in 2011, with regard to its schedule for upgrading the Tallman Island wastewater treatment plant with improved nitrogen removal technologies. The City fell behind on meeting its construction completion milestone at the Tallman Island plant, subjecting it to penalties. To resolve the issue, the State agreed – with the court’s approval – to grant the City’s request to move the deadline for completing this project from January 31, 2014, to July 31, 2014 (the City met this deadline).    

In exchange for the schedule modification, the City agreed to pay $1,200,000 for missing the deadline, consisting of a penalty of $240,000 to be placed in the State’s Marine Resources Account to support New York’s coast fisheries, as well as the $960,000 to fund environmental improvement projects in the upper East River and Long Island Sound.

This matter was handled for Attorney General Schneiderman by Assistant Attorney General Andrew Gershon of the Environmental Protection Bureau. The Environmental Protection Bureau is led by Bureau Chief Lemuel M. Srolovic. The Environmental Protection Bureau is part of the Division of Social Justice led by Executive Deputy Attorney General for Social Justice Alvin Bragg. First Deputy for Affirmative Litigation Janet Sabel also helped lead this case. 

The DEC Counsels Scott Crisafulli and Mary Wojcik also assisted in the matter.