A plan to consolidate services among 70 municipalities in Nassau County, including Long Beach, is expected to save taxpayers $130 million. A panel of local officials approved a shared-services agreement on Sept. 13, part of a statewide effort launched by Gov. Andrew Cuomo aimed at reducing property taxes.
The county submitted its plan to the state for approval last Friday, officials said. The bulk of the savings — $128 million — would come from an agreement between Long Beach and the county to convert the city’s 70-year-old sewage treatment plant into a pumping station that would send city sewage to the Bay Park Water Reclamation Facility. The County Legislature tentatively approved the plan in August.
The county-wide shared-services initiative was approved in April as part of this year’s state budget. It requires county officials to develop localized plans that identify property tax savings by coordinating and eliminating duplicate services and enhancing purchasing power, according to the state. Long Beach would also be responsible for snow removal along county roads within the city’s limits.
For years, the city has said it must balance the cost of sewer operations and modifications of the aging plant with efforts to ease the burden on taxpayers. Officials have said that the sewage plant is obsolete, and has struggled for years to meet water treatment standards and state Department of Environmental Conservation regulations.
The facility would require expenditures totaling $178 million to protect it from future storms and for repairs and capital improvements, officials said, adding that the current plant is also a pollution risk during storms as severe as Hurricane Sandy.
Diverting the city’s wastewater to Bay Park would cost an estimated $50 million.
“We want to thank our neighbors throughout Nassau County for overwhelmingly supporting this initiative along with us,” said City Manager Jack Schnirman. “We are proud of this shared-services partnership that will save tens of millions of taxpayer dollars.”
The Herald reported in July that the city was pursuing $18 million in county and state grants to convert the sewage plant into a pumping station, which officials described as the first phase of consolidation. City officials said the project would stop the dumping of about 60 million gallons per day of effluent, with more than 15 tons of pollutants, into Reynolds Channel and the Western Bays. The dilution of the effluent, officials have said, would reduce nitrogen and ammonia levels in the bays.
“We are thrilled that this consolidation project is advancing,” said Adrienne Esposito, executive director of Citizens Campaign for the Environment. “Saving money and saving our bays are two goals that are unanimously and abundantly supported by the public. Consolidation of Long Beach with Bay Park provides a rare opportunity to make a meaningful change to our bays. The modernized treatment technology at Bay Park, including nitrogen reduction, will preserve wetlands, stop widespread seaweed blooms, reduce brown tide, protect shellfish and finfish populations and make our bays cleaner. Everyone wants cleaner bays, and now we’re moving closer to a real solution.”
If the grants were awarded, the city’s untreated wastewater would be transported through a yet-to-be-built pipe under Reynolds Channel leading to the Bay Park Water plant for treatment, and then to the Cedar Creek Wastewater Treatment Plant, in Wantagh, through a viaduct under Sunrise Highway, and pumped into the Atlantic Ocean through a planned three-mile-long ocean outfall pipe.
But not everyone lauded the measure. Though the panel — which included Schnirman, County Executive Ed Mangano, town supervisors and village mayors — approved the shared-services agreement 43-0, according to Newsday, Hempstead Town Supervisor Anthony Santino blasted the plan at a news conference days before the vote, saying that until an ocean outfall pipe is installed, not “one ounce” of additional sewage should be diverted to Bay Park.
Santino said that would be environmentally unsafe, and would exacerbate odors and water pollution near homes in Bay Park and the surrounding communities. He called on the city and county to postpone the plan until the pipe is built.
The Bay Park plant also discharges sewage into Reynolds Channel, which has been linked to increased nitrogen levels in the bay, algae blooms, depleted fish stocks and closure of shellfishing areas, town officials said.
“Bay Park is Long Beach’s neighbor — we are not its bathroom,” Santino said. “The City of Long Beach should not be balancing their budget on the backs of our residents while shipping their sewage into the backyard of Bay Park residents. And Nassau County should not facilitate this bad idea.”
Esposito said that Santino was “ill-informed.” “Hempstead residents deserve a bay restoration plan backed by credible science, not a political rally against progress,” she said in statement on Sept. 10. “Let’s not let politics pollute our bay. This plan has strong bipartisan support and tremendous community backing.”