It's long past time for action at the Bay Park plant

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Though Nassau County declared a public health emergency, many residents who were without power or displaced were unaware that more than a billion gallons of raw or partially treated sewage had been discharged in the aftermath of the storm.

The county has created its own master plan for upgrading the facility, but the Citizens Campaign for the Environment recently floated its own 10-point plan that includes not only replacing aging or damaged equipment at Bay Park in order to meet state and federal water quality standards, but also creating a public oversight committee for the plant.

Results released last week from a Stony Brook University study, aimed at creating long-term solutions to reduce the levels of pollutants in the Western Bays and bolstering state and federal environmental standards for the plant, strongly suggest that it is responsible for most of the pollutants in the bays. But the state oversight and planning needed to dramatically reduce them may be more than a decade away. We cannot wait that long.

Of course, most observers agree that a total revamping of the facility would depend on much-needed federal funding, and County Executive Ed Mangano has requested $898 million in assistance from Washington to help redesign and rebuild it. But the county should also tap into $400 million that, according to County Legislator Dave Denenberg, was previously earmarked for upgrading its sewage treatment plants but remains unused.

We agree with the Citizens Campaign for the Environment’s assessment that Hurricane Sandy exposed the weaknesses of the Bay Park plant, while at the same time offering a unique opportunity to repair the failing infrastructure. Now is the time to cut through the red tape and finally fix an outdated facility that, because of its frequent breakdowns, constitutes a continuing public health hazard.

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