New York State was fined $150,000 for a decade-long delay in closing three dozen large-capacity cesspools that violate federal environmental law at seven New York State parks on Long Island, officials said.
The state is also required to spend $8.8 million to replace them and another 18 prohibited cesspools at upstate parks, plus spend more than $1 million on projects designed to mitigate water pollution in order to settle a lawsuit in which the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency alleged that New York violated Safe Drinking Water Act deadlines to correct the problem, prosecutors announced Wednesday.
“Public parks and water pollution don’t go together,” said Judith Enck, the EPA regional administrator. “After years of being out of compliance with federal law, New York State will finally close the numerous cesspools found in state parks, helping protect groundwater from nitrogen and other pollutants.”
The EPA alleged that the state Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation and the Palisades Interstate Park Commission failed to close a total of 54 antiquated oversized cesspools by the federal deadline of April 5, 2005. Such cesspools leach raw sewage, causing nitrogen pollution that can compromise the aquifers that serve as drinking water reserves for most of LI’s 3 million residents and produce brown tides that kill marine life in local bays.
Six of the prohibited cesspools are in the process of being replaced. Plans have been submitted to close the other 29, officials said. Most on LI will be closed by next September with the remainder slated for closure by September 2018, officials added. The parks will either divert urine to sewage treatment facilities or install nitrogen-reducing technology.
The parks on LI that are in violation include Robert Moses State Park in Babylon, Sunken Meadow State Park in Kings Park, Wildwood State Park in Wading River, Caumsett State Historic Park in Lloyd Harbor, Connetquot River State Park Preserve in North Great River, Captree State Park in Babylon and Hallock State Park in Wading River.
The settlement agreement is subject to a 30-day public comment period before the EPA and prosecutors for the Eastern District of New York will decide whether to ask a federal judge to finalize the settlement.