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Riverkeeper to Testify on Overwhelming Need to Invest in Wastewater Infrastructure and Restore DEC Funding

Trend in declining spending damaging to our environment, economy and quality of life


Contact: Tina Posterli, 914-478-4501 x 239, [email protected]

Ossining, NY – September 5, 2013 – The New York State Assembly will hold a public hearing in Albany Friday, Sept. 6, regarding the urgent need to invest in New York’s wastewater infrastructure and reverse the unconscionable decline in spending on New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) programs and staff.

Read Hudson Riverkeeper Paul Gallay’s prepared testimony.

The state’s own estimate of our growing infrastructure crisis shows that a staggering $36 billion will be needed over the next 20 years to address wastewater treatment needs alone. Disturbingly, these challenges face New Yorkers at the very moment when DEC has roughly 30 percent fewer employees than it did in the 1990s [despite an 11% population rise during those years]. The impacts of these deep and disproportionate cuts are reflected by the shocking decline in actions to enforce environmental laws along the mid- and upper-Hudson [DEC Region 4]. According to DEC data, enforcement “orders on consent” in this region declined every year between 2009 and 2012, from 143 to 80.

There are answers to the urgent problems caused by failing to invest in water infrastructure and our other environmental programs. Bills introduced in the assembly and senate last month would give voters the opportunity to approve $5 billion in bonds to pay for projects that could improve our environment, with $4 billion going toward initiatives to improve clean water resources and sewage infrastructure repair. And, the administration of Governor Andrew M. Cuomo, working with legislative leaders, could check the decline in DEC budgets, by reversing the disproportionate cuts suffered by this key agency over the past seven years.

Following is a statement from Hudson Riverkeeper Paul Gallay, formerly a senior staffer at DEC’s Region 2 (NYC) office during the Mario M. Cuomo and George E. Pataki administrations, who will testify at tomorrow’s hearing:

“Since 2007, clean water act enforcement and water quality monitoring in our waterways have steadily declined, due to DEC budget cuts, and agency officials warn that more such cuts are on the way. In a climate where 30 percent of our wastewater facilities are over 60 years old and operating up to 30 years past when they were designed to, with further cuts to DEC’s water quality programs planned, it’s time to stop the slide, which DEC frankly calls a ‘crisis,’ and secure the funding necessary to prevent the deep and permanent degradation of our waterways.

“If we do not reverse this trend of declining operational spending for DEC and insufficient investment in our wastewater infrastructure, then New York State’s new catchphrase – ‘Open for Business’ – might as well become ‘Open for Pollution,’ and we’ll face a future in which our quality of life declines, impacts to our health worsen and our natural heritage is squandered.”

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