Sandy showed Bay Park Sewage Plant shortcomings
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The DEC’s talks with county officials have included potential long-term solutions that could eventually halt all discharging of wastewater into Reynolds Channel, which eventually makes its way into the South Shore Estuary Reserve. Ideas have included the extension of the outflow pipe so that treated sewage would be discharged in the ocean, a method that is already used at other treatment plants in Nassau and Suffolk counties.
Citizens speak out
In what turned out to be a prophetic 40-page report by Citizens Campaign for the Environment a year before Hurricane Sandy struck, the organization’s executive director, Adrienne Esposito, warned that extreme storms can overwhelm sewage infrastructure and cause raw or partially treated sewage overflows. “These types of severe storms are expected to continue and worsen with our changing climate,” Esposito said. “Many communities throughout Long Island are served by aging sewage infrastructure that threatens public health and is adversely impacting our environment.”
More than 200 sewage treatment plants and pumping stations that operate across Long Island discharge into fragile bodies of water, including Long Island Sound, Peconic Estuary and the South Shore Estuary Reserve. Many smaller treatment units discharge into the groundwater. “Long Island lacks a comprehensive analysis at all its [sewage treatment plants] because they are owned, operated and managed by different municipalities and different levels of government,” Esposito added.
“Rebuilding Bay Park STP without transitioning and modernizing it is not recovery,” Esposito said. “We need the county to be aggressive in upgrading this plant to provide for a safer, clearer future.” She added that a lot has changed since Hurricane Sandy. “We are confident that we will now get money funding from [the Federal Emergency Management Agency]. We’re at a critical juncture … they have to continue to repair, but when we get FEMA money, that’s when the permanent fixes can happen. It’s expensive, but worth every dollar.”
For Bay Park resident David Ludwig and his wife, Jacqueline, who are living with relatives in Merrick, those changes can’t come soon enough. “I still have contents from the sewage plant in my bathtub,” Ludwig said. “They said I should remove all of the porous materials from my house, but my house is made of wood. How can I raise a family here? What happens when the heat and humidity come, and there are toxins in the untreated crevices of the wood? Anything can fester and grow.”
Realizing that the journey to recovery is a multifaceted story with no end in sight, the Heralds are chronicling all aspects of the rebuilding effort in a series of weekly articles with a common theme, South Shore Rising.