Mount Vernon’s Aging Water-Sewer Infrastructure Is Costing Taxpayers Millions, Damaging The Environment And Public Health With Raw Sewage Polluting Rivers & Waste Overflowing Into People’s Homes
Mount Vernon – Standing outside of Mount Vernon City Hall with officials and impacted residents, U.S. Senate Majority Leader Charles E. Schumer and U.S. Representative Jamaal Bowman (NY-16) announced Friday morning that following their direct advocacy they each have secured $1.5 million in federal funding, for a total of $3 million, to accelerate the desperately needed upgrades of Mount Vernon’s water and sewage infrastructure. The lawmakers explained that Mount Vernon is in the midst of a sewage crisis, with aging wastewater infrastructure rapidly degrading in many areas, causing health concerns for residents, environmental damage with sewage overflows polluting nearby waterways, and causing sewage to back up into hundreds of homes, devastating families and leaving residents traumatized.
Schumer and Bowman said that while the City of Mount Vernon has made significant progress this past year in funding the critical resources needed for these major repairs, including allocating over $6.5 million in local aid for the project that the Representatives delivered to Mount Vernon through the American Rescue Plan, funding gaps remain to see the project through. This $3 million in federal funding secured by the Representatives as a part of the Fiscal Year 2022 omnibus will fill a major gap by allowing the city to hire engineers to evaluate data, identify remaining problems and finally create a comprehensive plan for sewer replacement and the future of the City’s wastewater infrastructure.
“Enough is enough. For far too long too many Mount Vernon residents have had to live in fear of toxic sewage backing up into their homes, polluting their water, and putting the burden on the local taxpayer. This has to end. That is why I am proud to deliver this $3 million in federal funding with Congressman Bowman so that Mount Vernon can finally hire the qualified engineers it needs to identify and begin the desperately needed overhaul of its water-sewage infrastructure,” said Senator Schumer. “This, in tandem with the historic over $428 million I secured for New York’s Drinking Water and Clean Water State Revolving Funds in 2022 through the bipartisan Infrastructure Law, which Mount Vernon will be eligible for, and over $41 million for the City of Mount Vernon in the American Rescue Plan, will finally get these projects flowing in the right direction. I will keep fighting tooth and nail to ensure that Mount Vernon has all the federal support it needs to make sure the city has the sewer system they’ve long desired and deserved.”
“Throughout the last year, we have been in close contact with leaders and neighbors around NY-16 to find innovative ways to meet the community’s needs through long overdue resources, and I am so proud to announce over $3 million in new funding to address sewage issues in Mt. Vernon,” said Congressman Jamaal Bowman, Ed.D. (NY-16). “Through partnership and consistent engagement, we were able to ensure that this money was prioritized and signed into law by President Biden. These funds will be directed toward the Sewage Cleanup Project to Promote Equity and Resilience and the City of Mount Vernon Sewage Planning Project. This is just the beginning of the incredible change we can bring to NY-16 and I look forward to continue advocating, alongside Senator Schumer, for more federal funding to make our communities greener, healthier, and safer for all.”
“Thanks for Senator Schumer and Congressman Bowman for fighting to deliver $3 million to help the City of Mount Vernon as we continue to address our sewage crisis. We have made more progress in the past two years than the past twenty years combined. I look forward to working with our federal delegation to address our wastewater issues and rebuild our sewer system in the years to come,” said Mayor Shawyn Patterson-Howard.
For years, the City of Mount Vernon has faced chronic problems with its wastewater and sewage infrastructure. Hundreds of residents have experience horrific sewage backups into their homes, resulting in severe damage. The lawmakers said that addressing this ongoing infrastructure and public health crisis is also a matter of correcting years of discrimination, redlining, and disinvestment in places like Mount Vernon. The crisis culminated in 2018 when Mount Vernon was issued a federal court order to fix its sewer system after the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the New York Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) found violations of the Clean Water Act that contaminated the Bronx and Hutchinson River with sewage. Currently, however, the repairs are estimated to cost in excess of $250 million to fully repair the sewage system.
In the past two years, the city has made significant progress in repairing and remediating environmental concerns caused by the failing sewage system, but still lack key financial backing for essential aspects of the project. Working together in the Fiscal Year 2022 omnibus, Senator Schumer secured $1.5 million in the Interior, Environment, and Related Agencies bill and Congressman Bowman secured $1.5 million in the Transportation, Housing and Urban Development, and Relates Agencies bill bringing the total funding up to $3 million. The two $1.5 million grants that Schumer and Bowman secured will cover desperately needed engineering costs to keep the project on track with its long-term goals. The funds will also assist in the prioritization of work to be completed in accordance with EPA and DEC protocols. Schumer and Bowman said that the implementation of a comprehensive plan developed through this funding will reduce the risk of task redundancy, overall project efficiency, as well as position the City to address issues cited in the Administrative Compliance Order.
Schumer and Bowman said that this funding also comes on the heels of historic federal investment into New York and the City of Mount Vernon, which is already being used to help supplement the City’s ongoing wastewater and sewage repairs. This includes the over $41 million in local aid that the City of Mount Vernon received through the American Rescue Plan, of which $6.5 million has already been allocated towards the ongoing sewage repair projects. In addition, Schumer said the bipartisan Infrastructure Investment & Jobs Act (IIJA) passed late last year will deliver over $428 million in 2022 alone to New York’s Drinking Water and Clean Water State Revolving Funds to modernize water and sewage infrastructure, eliminate lead pipes, remove dangerous pollutants, and bring vital funding to places like Mount Vernon. Importantly, Schumer fought for a lower state cost-share for the early years of this funding and for 49% of the money to be administered as grants and completely forgivable loans, ensuring New Yorkers can get the most out of this funding.
Overall, the IIJA includes over $50 billion for the EPA’s highly successful water infrastructure programs over 5 years which will further provide Mount Vernon the opportunity to obtain additional funding for existing and emerging projects. Some of these programs in the IIJA include:
· $1.4 billion for the EPA Sewer Overflow & Stormwater Reuse Municipal Grant Program of which, no less than 25% will go to rural and financially disadvantaged communities.
· $15 billion carve out within the Drinking Water State Revolving Fund to replace lead service lines.
· $10 billion in grants to address emerging contaminants, of which $5 billion is set aside for addressing emerging contaminants in disadvantaged communities.
Schumer and Bowman were joined by Mount Vernon Mayor Shawyn Patterson-Howard, Westchester County Executive George Latimer, and impacted residents.