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.

Looking forward

“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.”

A Q&A with the Nassau County Department of Public Works

Where is the plant's functionality now?
Is it to where it was before the storm?
Yes. The plant has been fully functioning since November and meeting all DEC requirements since December. Before the storm, after County Executive Ed Mangano had invested more than $70 million to reverse years of neglect at the plant and the facility had marked more than one year without any violations at all.
Is there a plan for any more repairs (storm related or pre-storm), and a timeline for this plan?
A comprehensive plan is still being devised as assessment of the plant continues. The plan will address both critical repairs but also improvements to the plan.
Has the plan change since the storm (i.e. any precautions, new measures that you learned from the hurricane that you may be implementing or addressing)?
The plan has changed slightly in that Sandy’s damage was so extensive that much of the critical infrastructure needed to be repaired.
 Is there are "master plan" in the works, and if so, at what point is the county in this process?
Yes.  In assessing the future, a master plan is being constructed. County Executive Mangano has vowed to fix Bay Park Sewage Treatment Plant so that it withstands mother nature’s fury, protects our residents and prevents any damage to our environment and waterways.
 What is the projected cost of upgrading, and where is the money coming from, as of now?

There is no hard cost at this time. The County Executive has requested $800 million in recovery and mitigation funds for the Bay Park Plant from federal and state governments.
 Have any changes been made since the storm to see that something like the overflow of sewage would not, again, come up into the neighborhood streets?
The overflow caused by Hurricane Sandy was the first time anything like that had ever occurred.  Mangano remains committed to ensuring that all repairs and improvements are made, as well as a mitigation plan that protects the plant from future storms.

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.

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