“Today’s the day to save the bay!” “Nitrogen’s the reason all the fish are leavin’!” “We have a pipe dream.”
These were the chants of environmental leaders and others at a rally outside the county legislative offices in Mineola on Feb. 11, calling on state officials and federal agencies to provide additional funding for improvements to the Bay Park Sewage Treatment Plant.
“We are at the cusp of turning one of the worst sewage treatment plants in our state into a model plant for the region,” said Adrienne Esposito, executive director of Citizens Campaign for the Environment. “Now is the time for action.”
More than $800 million in federal funds have been secured for repairs and upgrades at the plant, but more is needed, according to civic and environmental groups and some elected officials, to pay for extending the plant’s outfall pipe. The extended pipe would discharge treated sewage two to three miles out in the Atlantic instead of in Reynolds Channel.
The East Rockaway plant, built in 1949, treats approximately 50 million gallons of sewage per day. It was out of service for two days after Hurricane Sandy, having been hit with a 9-foot tidal surge, and roughly 100 million gallons of untreated sewage flowed into Hewlett Bay and Reynolds Channel. Another 2.2 billion gallons of partially treated sewage was released during the 44 days it took to fully restore operations, according to scientific researchers at Climate Central.
Last month, Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced major funding for the plant from the Federal Emergency Management Agency and federal community development block grants. The total that has been allocated to repairing and upgrading the plant, Cuomo said, is now $810 million, but he estimated that extending the outfall pipe would run another $600 million to $700 million.
Cuomo, who issued a statement requesting additional funding for the facility from the federal government, said that there is an opportunity to “significantly improve the water quality and resiliency” of the waterways near the plant by extending the outfall pipe.