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Levels of dissolved oxygen were above 5 milligrams per liter, which are generally accepted as being protective of estuarine life.
By Mary Malloy
A state of emergency was declared for some homes in East Rockaway and Baldwin last week, according to Nassau County Health Commissioner Dr. Lawrence Eisenstein, to “help eliminate threats to public health and safety for those residents affected by sewage main ruptures.”
Residents of Bay Park and Baldwin, who lost many of their possessions in Hurricane Sandy and have been suffering through a lack of heat, electricity and hot water in the weeks since, have had their problems compounded by partially treated sewage bubbling up into their homes and streets from the Bay Park Sewage Treatment Plant, which processes 65 million gallons of sewage per day — 40 percent of the county’s sewage.
“It’s just disgusting,” said one resident of West Boulevard in Bay Park. “You can see it’s not just water or mud … it has feces floating in it.” Residents stood watching in disbelief as water rose from somewhere underground on Nov. 15, causing a stench and what many called unhealthy living conditions.
According to Michael Martino, a spokesman for the Nassau County Department of Public Works, there is no longer any sewage coming up from manholes. “Recently, a manhole had water infiltration associated with the high tide,” Martino said, “not sewage.”
The storm devastated some of the county’s infrastructure, Martino said, including the Bay Park plant, which was hit with a nine-foot tidal surge. “The seawater inundated many parts of the plant and submerged critical pieces of equipment in saltwater, rendering them inoperable,” he said. “As a result, normal operation of the plant ceased.”
Since then, Martino explained, sewage has been partially treated with chlorine. “The federal, state and county critical response team is now working tirelessly to provide a comprehensive repair of the facility,” he said. “Initial assessments indicate that replacement parts must be engineered, manufactured and replaced. The assessment process is ongoing, and plans will be updated as they become available.”
Martino added that new methods of disposal are being studied. (In September, Nassau County Executive Ed Mangano announced that the county will spend nearly $100,000 to study new ways to treat wastewater at the Bay Park plant and the feasibility of building an sewage outfall pipe that would extend into the Atlantic Ocean.)
What happens now?
Under the state of emergency declaration, affected homes can be cleaned out and decontaminated. The sewer main breaches occurred at Barnes Avenue, in Baldwin, and North Boulevard, in East Rockaway.
Eisenstein and Mangano, along with representatives from the Environmental Protection Agency and the Federal Emergency Management Agency, visited the residents who were impacted, assured them that the county would help address their health concerns.
An environmental hygienist was to be made available for site assessments of homes in the affected areas, and a remediation company was slated to provide cleanup and decontamination services at no cost to homeowners.
Along with robo calls to residents, county Department of Health spokeswoman Mary Ellen Laurain said, department staff planned to go door to door to advise residents who may have come in contact with the sewage. Additionally, the department recommended the following steps for cleaning up areas contaminated by sewage:
n Remove children and pets from the affected area.
n To properly dispose of sewage, wear rubber gloves and boots, and use soap and water followed by disinfecting solution comprising 9 parts water, 1 part household bleach.
n Wash clothing worn during cleanup or discard in heavy-duty garbage bags for pickup.
For more information, residents may call (516) 573-9635.