One of the largest environmental projects in Nassau County’s history has turned into a living nightmare for some Wantagh residents.
The Bay Park Conveyance Project, which has been in the works for years, with environmental reviews and public outreach taking place between February 2020 and April 2021, was designed to improve water quality to allow the ecological recovery of the marshlands that serve to protect the coastal communities from storm surge and sea level rise.
The South Shore Water Reclamation Facility in Bay Park has been pumping treated sewage into the western bays for years, leading to high levels of nitrogen in the water. This nitrogen has been harmful to the bays, producing less oxygen in the water and killing much of the once plentiful marine life.
Once the project is completed, however, the bays will be able to heal themselves, project officials said. Using aqueducts that were found underneath Sunrise Highway — which are more than 100 years old and formerly used to pump drinking water to the city from Long Island — the treated water from the Bay Park plant will be diverted eleven miles east to Wantagh’s Cedar Creek Wastewater Treatment Plant. Cedar Creek does not pump the treated water into any bay — but rather takes it three miles out into the open ocean, which cleans itself much faster than any bay.
The project has progressed quickly, with workers already on Sunrise Highway in Wantagh, at Shaft Five, using “micro-tunneling” techniques.
Since Sunrise Highway is a well-traversed road, much of the work in recent months has been done at night, to the dismay of Wantagh residents who live nearby.
“The May 2022 meeting stated this area would not have night work,” Robert Iadevaio, a physician who lives close to the highway, said. “The noise, light, and fumes are preventing sleep, causing nausea to adults and children in the area. The work is as close as 40 feet from residences. We are becoming deprived and experiencing mental fatigue, anxiety and psychological stress. It is becoming a dangerous situation. There has also been a rodent issue which occurred after digging but is still not addressed.”
Iadevaio added that he’s not receiving sufficient sleep at night and thus creating a health hazard for his patients.
Luke Stanczyk, who lives on Brookside Avenue, complained that the lights at the construction site are so bright even blackout curtains do little to help.
Iadevaio and his neighbor, Michael Lettini, also claimed that they were promised this work would never be done at night, but it suddenly began happening in late February. Neighbors have complained about loud beeping from trucks, the bright lights, and a street sweeper circling the block late at night. Residents have also found it difficult to park near their homes due to the work.
Officials in charge of the Bay Park Conveyance Project held a meeting on March 15 to update neighbors about the progress of the work. Iadevaio questioned why the work, which has gone on 24 hours a day, six days a week, began without notifying residents.
“We had a canvassing document that went out which explicitly said 24 hours, six days a week,” Travis Brennan, a representative of the project, said. “But I’m not saying that lightly, I understand exactly what you’re going through. And your frustration is certainly understood. And I can’t say anything other than we are doing that for multiple reasons, when you have critical infrastructure when you’re under a waterway.”
But Iadevaio said neighbors received the flyers after the work had already begun.
Other complaints focused on safety hazards such as water flowing from the work to Wantagh State Parkway, creating a slippery roadway for cars. They also said workers have removed trees that protected houses from cars potentially hitting the homes from the parkway. Brennan said project managers have worked with officials from emergency services to quickly resolve the ice problem, and trees will be restored as soon as the project is finished.
Both Brennan and state Sen. Steve Rhoads agreed that the night work should be completed by the end of March, with Brennan claiming it could be done as soon as the week of March 20.
Any residents affected by the Bay Park Conveyance Project are encouraged to reach out to its 24-hour hotline at (516) 252-6121.