By Dan Hust
WOODRIDGE Years of violating state environmental regs behind them, Village of Woodridge leaders and residents joined state and federal officials on Friday to celebrate the completion of the village’s $11 million sewer plant.
“Hallelujah!” shouted Congressman Maurice Hinchey, who secured $4.3 million in federal funds for the decade-long project. “It’s a very important day, and it’s going to have a very significant positive effect on the village.”
While benefitting from grants and a zero percent state loan, Woodridge’s 900 residents (at least those who are in the sewer district) will have to pony up an additional $195 a year to pay for the new facility.
But that didn’t dampen spirits on Friday.
“This is a very important milestone for Woodridge,” noted EPA Regional Administrator Judith Enck, whose agency supplied $2 million. “... This plant will make sure the village meets federal and state water quality standards.”
Hinchey acknowledged that until the new plant opened in April, Woodridge’s sewage was unable to be treated sufficiently before being discharged into the nearby Sandburg Creek.
“Woodridge now has a modern and effective wastewater system one of the best anywhere,” the Congressman told the crowd.
He gave particular credit to George Popp and Rhonda Falkena of the Middletown office of the U.S. Dept. of Agriculture’s Rural Development Agency, who worked hard to land the village a grant totalling more than $2 million.
The state Environmental Facilities Corporation also contributed around $7 million in low-interest loans to the project, said Allison Epstein, Assemblywoman Aileen Gunther’s district director.
“Here’s to the first flush!” Epstein cheered.
The good humor continued to the end of the ceremony, when officials gathered to cut not a ribbon but a length of toilet paper.
“This is a super-important project,” stated Woodridge Mayor Lou Saperstein. “... We now have the infrastructure for development and future growth.”
Saperstein’s predecessor, Ivan Katz, was lauded for his dedicated efforts to get the process going, but he redirected the praise to Hinchey.
“Without him, nothing would have been done,” Katz thanked, offering additional gratitude to former Village Clerk Diane Garritt and her successor, Myra Bennett.
Fallsburg Supervisor Steve Vegliante pointed out that collaboration between agencies and municipalities was crucial to the plant’s creation. (The town has a money-saving agreement with the village to operate the facility.)
“When you have a problem as big as this is,” he observed, “it takes every level of government to chip in and fix it.”