Nassau County Executive Edward Mangano planned to meet with Sen. Charles Schumer and others in Washington this Wednesday to discuss $600 million needed in additional funding for a long-discussed ocean outfall pipe that would take treated sewage from the Bay Park Sewage Treatment Plant, located in East Rockaway, and from the sewage plant in Long Beach, and would release it two to thee miles out into the Atlantic Ocean. The treated sewage is currently being released into Reynold's Channel.
"We all remember the sewage crisis we had in the wake of Sandy, and we need to avoid that again at all costs," said Mangano. "This project may be the single most important thing we can do to protect homeowners and the environment. It is a prime candidate for the money Senator Schumer fought so hard for in the relief bill."
Local and federal officials are pushing for $600 million in Sandy aid to fund a pipe from the Bay Park Sewage Treatment Plant that would transport treated sewage from the East Rockaway facility and another in Long Beach into the Atlantic Ocean.
Under the plan, the Long Beach plant would become a pumping station, allowing the acreage there to be considered for redevelopment. Nassau County estimates that the conversion would cost $35 million, and another $690 million for the outfall pipe.
During Superstorm Sandy, the Bay Park plant, which sits just yards from the bay, was knocked out of service for two days after being hit with a 9-foot tidal surge. It dumped an estimated 2 million gallons of raw sewage and 2.2 billion gallons of partially treated sewage in the bay waters in the 44 days after the storm — the worst sewage overflow in New York state and the second-worst in the Northeast, according to scientific researchers at Climate Central.org. Another 3 million gallons were released into Reynolds Channel on May 9 of this year due to an hour-long power outage at the plant.
The waterways still have massively elevated levels of sewage and nitrogen, Schumer said, making swimming or boating dangerous or prohibited. These funds, which Schumer is seeking from the Environmental Protection Agency and the Department of Housing and Urban Development, will solve a problem that the county has been trying to solve for a decade, but has been unable to due to lack of funds.
"HUD is about to begin reviewing spending plans for billions of Sandy relief funds, making this a perfect time to make this push.
"We watched in horror while an environmental disaster unfolded in the wake of Sandy," said Schumer, "with sewage from the crippled Bay Park plant flowing back into homes and local waterways. This outflow pipe . . . would prevent another environmental disaster."
The request is in addition to the $730 million Nassau County has won to upgrade, repair and mitigate at Bay Park, as featured on liherald.com this week.
“We are extremely supportive of Senator Schumer’s effort to secure $600M to provide critical improvements to the wastewater infrastructure here and at Bay Park, thereby improving the water quality in Reynolds Channel,” said Long Beach City Council president Scott J. Mandel. “This will truly be a game changer for the south shore. We are excited to work with Senator Schumer and Nassau County to see this project move forward.”
The proposed outfall pipe would not be covered under FEMA Sandy aid money because it did not exist before the storm, but block grants and loans could be applicable.
Environmentalists and local officials have been discussing the need for this type of pipe for years.
“To me, it’s always the right time to ask for money,” said Leg. Dave Deneberg (D-Merrick). “The concept is that the movement of ocean and the tides can handle the treated sewage better than the bays can.
Denenberg, who has been a longtime proponent of an ocean outflow pipe, pointed out that the upgrades must be done first before a outflow pipe can be installed. “The pipe was not the reason the plant went down during the storm. The County was so unprepared for this.”
The EPA and the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation have declared vast amounts of water on the South Shore and Long Island to be “impaired,”citing elevated levels of microorganisms, reduced oxygen and increased nitrogen loading from contaminated runoff. Excess nitrogen in surface water allows algae to grow unchecked, depleting waters of oxygen and killing off marine life. Polluted waters mean less fishing and recreational boating, closed beaches and fewer tourism generated dollars in a region with an economy dependent on those industries.
The construction of an ocean outfall pipe would have a considerable impact mitigating the harmful effects of the growing threat rising nitrogen levels present to Long Island waters. "The federal government has an opportunity to make this project an exemplary model of how government can be innovative and prudent with the finite amount of funding available after a catastrophic natural disaster to protect the environment and thousands of impacted families," Schumer added.
History of the Bay Park Plant