Let’s hope county’s plan isn’t just a pipe dream


“The long-term sustainability of Reynolds Channel and our surrounding bays is a pressing environmental concern. The chance to eliminate the major contributor to elevated nitrogen levels that have endangered plant and marine life in Reynolds Channel for generations, and the opportunity to do so at a potential savings of hundreds of millions of dollars over the alternative plan, is one that would be foolish not to explore.”

That was Nassau County Legislator Steve Rhoads, a Republican from Bellmore, referring to the county’s recently announced plan to divert tens of millions of gallons of treated sewage from the Bay Park Sewage Treatment Plant to the ocean outfall pipe at the Cedar Creek Water Pollution Control Plant on the Wantagh-Seaford border.

We agree entirely with Rhoads, whose district encompasses the Cedar Creek plant.

Treated sewage, which is mostly water and nitrogen, would be piped from one end of the county to the other via a century-old, 72-inch pipe that runs for 10 miles underneath Sunrise Highway, from Lynbrook to Wantagh. It’s a creative, forward-thinking plan.

For years, the county has sought to construct an outfall pipe from Bay Park three miles into the Atlantic Ocean, similar to the one at Cedar Creek. The problem with building a new pipe at Bay Park is the cost. At minimum, the project would run $450 million. Some estimates put the price at $600 million. Pumping effluent under Sunrise Highway and then into the ocean would cost $200 million to $300 million –– clearly a substantial savings.

First, though, the county must study the pipe under the highway, which hasn’t been used for decades. It might be structurally unsound. Also, the county still has to figure out how to pay for the project. The state has pledged $150 million toward it, which means that another $50 million to $150 million would be needed to carry it out. That would require some creative financing, given the county’s longstanding budget woes.

If Nassau were able to pull off this project, however, it could revive waterways and wetlands including Reynolds Channel, where Bay Park’s effluent is currently dumped via a pipe just north of the Long Beach fishing pier. To the county we say, proceed with all due haste.