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Nitrogen in bays addressed in $19.6M plan

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Suez Water Long Island, which manages the Bay Park Wastewater Treatment Plant for Nassau County, recently completed a $19.6 million project to install special tanks at the plant that will remove up to 40 percent of nitrogen in wastewater that is discharged into Reynolds Channel, north of Long Beach.

The 18-month project, officials said, is intended to protect the fragile Western Bays.

On Monday, Nassau County Executive Laura Curran and U.S. Sen. Charles Schu-mer gathered environmentalists and other officials at the plant to announce the project’s completion.

“Nitrogen has been public enemy number one for a very long time,” Schumer said, “for Nassau homeowners, for our back bays, for the Western Bays and for the Long Island environment. And today we are here to do something about it.”

Nitrogen accelerates the growth of a seaweed called ulva lactuca, which breaks apart in the tides. In time, it rots, robbing the surrounding waters of dissolved oxygen and killing marine life.

Adrienne Espo-sito, executive director of Citizens Campaign for the Environment, said the Biological Nutrient Removal Project, as officials are calling it, was a victory for the environment.

“Less nitrogen means healthier ocean water, which is better for fish, shore birds, and will result in cleaner water for recreational use,” Esposito said. “I’m very excited for the future of our bays.” 

“Anyone who uses the Western Bays for recreation will experience cleaner water, and this will benefit them in their pursuit,” said Kenneth Arnold, commissioner of the Nassau County Department of Public Works. “It has been very satisfying to have federal and state agencies work together for this collaborative endeavor.” 

A second phase of the project, to remove more nitrogen from the wastewater, is now under way, and is 15 percent complete. Kevin Chandler, vice president and general manager of Suez Water Long Island, said that when Phase Two is completed, there will be 75 to 90 percent less nitrogen entering the bays.

“There isn’t much maintenance, on our end, that is required to keep this water treatment project running as it currently stands,” said Chandler, who helped manage the BNR project. “However, residents can help with maintenance by not flushing wet wipes down the toilet, because those can clog sewage pipes and damage equipment.”

The BNR project comes as officials look to further alleviate the pollution of waterways through the Bay Park Conveyance Project. The $408 million plan will send treated wastewater from the Bay Park Water Reclamation Facility to an ocean outfall pipe at the Cedar Creek Water Pollution Control Plant in Wantagh, by way of a 100-year-old aqueduct beneath Sunrise Highway. Officials have eyed early 2021 to begin construction.

Deputy Nassau County Executive Brian Schneider said the BNR project would benefit residents throughout the county. “You don’t just have to live on the South Shore to reap the benefits of this project,” he said, “but anyone living in Nassau County will experience an improvement in water quality, and ultimately a better quality of life.”