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Bay Park residents worry about diesel days at sewage treatment plant


Dozens of Bay Park residents met with Nassau County officials and Suez Water representatives on Nov. 12 to ask questions and express their worries about diesel exhaust and odors at the Bay Park Water Reclamation Facility.

In October, several residents said they were concerned about odors from the plant and about the potential health hazards of the diesel exhaust it emits — a known carcinogen, meaning that it is likely to cause cancer, according to the International Agency for Research on Cancer and the National Institutes of Health.

Several county officials and representatives of Suez met with residents earlier this month to provide them with the answers they sought. Maryanne Dioquino, a representative of Arcadis, a consulting managing company hired by the Bay Park plant, noted that there have been 21 odor complaints from those who live near the plant over the past three months, 10 of which focused on smells caused by generators running on diesel fuel.

The plant has eight dual-fuel generators that can run on diesel or natural gas. Plant operators have attempted to burn as little diesel as possible, and the facility’s generators were rebuilt in 2016 with the goal of running on it less often, officials said. The facility, however, still uses diesel often. Suez created a group text chain to warn residents when the plant operators plan to run on diesel, but many residents remain concerned.

“When it’s on diesel, it’s terrible,” resident John Kenny said at the meeting. “When it’s running on natural gas and you’re downwind of it, it ain’t great. . . . What you did is you shoehorned a very large sewage treatment plant in an existing community, so we’re paying the price for it.”

Kenny echoed the sentiments of many meeting attendees, who were vocal in their opposition to diesel. When the power generators are running on diesel at times each day, a plume of yellow smoke can be seen spewing from the plant, filling the air in nearby yards and parks with odors and toxins.

Brian Schneider, the deputy county executive for parks and public works, said the plant would run on diesel less often once an agreement is reached with PSEG Long Island to provide an additional underground power line from the G.F. Barrett Generation Station, in Island Park, to Bay Park.

“It’s happening very quickly,” Schneider told the Herald after the meeting. “It’s getting the proper attention that it needs, and we’re hopeful that the roadblocks and hurdles will be cleared very shortly.”

The Bay Park plant needs additional power from Barrett to function without stressing other parts of the operation, Schneider said. “At the end of all of this construction,” he said, “hopefully these diesel generators will no longer be necessary.”

Schneider attended the meeting along with other employees of the county’s Department of Public Works, representatives of Suez, Arcadis and PMG Construction Services, and County Legislators Denise Ford and Debra Mulé.

The feed from Island Park, Schneider said, would help power additional infrastructure at the plant, which includes the $408 million Bay Park Conveyance Project. The power is needed to complete the plan, which will send treated effluent from the Bay Park plant to an ocean outfall pipe at the Cedar Creek Water Pollution Control Plant in Wantagh, using a 100-year-old aqueduct beneath Sunrise Highway. “The plan can’t really happen under the current energy consumption setup at Bay Park,” Schneider said. “So we need this additional power from PSEG.”

The conveyance project will end the discharge of an estimated 19 billion gallons of treated wastewater into the Western Bays each year, which will help rejuvenate marshlands that are vital to protecting coastal communities from storm damage. The Bay Park plant, built in 1941, serves 500,000 residents, discharging an average of 52 million gallons of treated effluent into Reynolds Channel per day. Nitrogen from the wastewater impacts nearly 10,000 acres of water and tidal marshland in the Western Bays, from Atlantic Beach to Point Lookout. Design plans for the project are under review, Schneider said.

According to Schneider, the system to connect the feeders from Island Park to Bay Park must be designed and constructed by PSEG, and the county has budgeted $20 million for the work. Schneider added that county officials hope to complete the conveyance project by mid-2024.

In the meantime, the plant has undergone several nitrogen-removal projects to eliminate odors, one of which is expected to be completed by the end of 2021. Schneider said there is a second nitrogen- removal project in the works, which will include a chemical process to reduce nitrogen in treated effluent.

At the meeting, plans for Harbor Road drainage, future construction plans and landscaping projects near the plant were also discussed. Dioquino, of Arcadis, said that plant operators hoped to switch to natural gas more regularly in the future, once a deal is reached with PSEG.

“It’s not taken lightly to just go on diesel,” she said. “It’s preferred to run the primary house generators on natural gas as much as possible. The county has been diligently working within a lot of different meetings with lawyers and engineers to move along the contract with PSEG.”