Last Oct. 29, Hurricane Sandy drowned the Bay Park Sewage Treatment Plant in East Rockaway with more than nine feet of saltwater, destroying its pumps, shutting down its operating systems and overwhelming the already weak facility.
Bay Park, one of two Nassau County sewage treatment plants, opened in 1955, and for more than a decade it has faced intense scrutiny by the state Department of Environmental Conservation. In 2011 the DEC levied $1 million in fines against the plant for failing to meet water quality standards, although the penalties were reduced to $500,000 as long as the county showed a good-faith effort to upgrade the plant.
The county appeared to be on the right track, pumping $70 million into repairing Bay Park, which processes 40 percent of the county’s sewage and discharges 70 million gallons of wastewater into Reynolds Channel per day.
Then came Sandy, which laid bare Bay Park’s shortcomings. A hundred million gallons of raw sewage flowed from the plant into Hewlett Bay in the first 44 hours after the storm, according to a report, “Hurricane Sandy’s Untold Filthy Legacy,” published in April by Climate Central, a New Jersey-based environmental group that analyzes climate change. Additionally, the county was forced to release 2.2 billion gallons of partially treated sewage into Reynolds Channel from Oct. 29 to Dec. 21, when repairs to the plant were finally completed.
The discharge from Bay Park was the second worst in the Northeast –– and the worst in New York. In all, 10.9 billion gallons of raw or partially treated sewage were released in eight states after Sandy, Climate Central says.
For six decades, Bay Park has discharged nitrogen-rich effluent into Reynolds Channel from a cement outflow pipe roughly a half-mile north of the City of Long Beach’s Magnolia Pier. The pipe was built amid Nassau’s housing boom, when little to no thought was given to the potential havoc it could wreak on the environment.
Now is the time to fix the problem. The county must extend the pipe into the Atlantic Ocean, as it did with the Cedar Creek Sewage Treatment Plant in Wantagh. Cedar Creek’s 3.5-mile-long pipe discharges in the Atlantic, where its effluent disperses in deep water.