$5 M Settlement Paves Way NYC Upgrades

New York City has agreed to pay a $1 million fine and fund $4 million worth of environmental-benefit projects to settle violations related to delays in making sewer-system and stormwater-system upgrades to prevent overflows into waterways, New York State Department of Environmental Conservation Commissioner (DEC) Pete Grannis announced June 2.

The violations stem from the city's failure to make improvements in accordance with a schedule outlined in a 2005 consent order it signed with the state. Under the new settlement, the city has agreed to a new time line for completing those construction projects and will make further upgrades to both its sewer and stormwater systems.

"The good news is that the new compliance schedule and upgrades will significantly improve the quality of New York City's waters and marine environment," Commissioner Grannis said. "In addition, the environmental-benefit projects contained in the settlement pave the way for the city to make progress toward reducing potential overflow problems and 'greening' neighborhoods."

The issue centered on New York City's obligation to improve mechanical structures, foundations, substructures, pumping stations, and other infrastructure-related systems as mandated in the 2005 consent order. The projects are designed to improve the capacity of the city's wastewater and stormwater systems. During heavy rainfall, runoff can exceed the capacity of the sewer system, triggering what's known as "combined sewer overflows." Infrastructure upgrades can diminish the chances of overflows.

The environmental benefit projects will be concentrated in the Bronx River, Flushing Bay, Coney Island Creek and Gowanus Canal watersheds and will assess the use of various green infrastructure to be installed for sewer-overflow and stormwater abatement. Some of the types of projects that will be considered include enhanced tree pits with underground water storage, rain gardens, green roofs, bio-retention basins and swales, porous pavement and blue roofs. Collectively, these projects are intended to reduce the volume of stormwater that enters the sewer system, thereby limiting overflows. These projects, administered through the state Environmental Facilities Corp., will include extensive community input and involvement.

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