A deal between county officials and PSEG Long Island to provide power to the Bay Park Water Reclamation Facility has yet to be approved by the Federal Emergency Management Agency, which could delay a plan to reroute treated effluent from the plant to the Cedar Creek Water Pollution Control Plant.
The Bay Park plant relies on four generators for its power. County officials reached an agreement with the Public Service Enterprise Group of Long Island to design and build two 13,200-volt electric service feeders that would allow the plant to treat effluent faster and lower its nitrogen level. Federal rules require, however, that before the deal can be finalized, FEMA must approve it.
“We have worked closely with Nassau County officials to develop a plan to support the increased power needs of the upgraded sewage treatment plant,” said Jeremy Walsh, a spokesman for PSEG-LI. “While the timetable for these electrical improvements could be affected by ongoing discussions between the county and FEMA, we stand ready and look forward to continuing to work with all parties to provide a permanent power solution.”
Calls requesting comment from County Executive Laura Curran had not been returned as of press time.
Don Caetano, external affairs director for FEMA, said that the plan for electric feeders at the plant was approved on May 18, 2017. But FEMA has yet to approve the county’s choice of PSEG-LI to do the electircal work.
“FEMA recognizes that this request is a significant concern for the applicant,” Caetano said, “and thus is making the review of this request a priority.”
A new electrical substation at the plant, which is under construction, has been designed to accept the new power feeder and will power the whole plant.
During Hurricane Sandy, the plant sustained significant damage when part of it was hit with a 9-foot wall of water. It was knocked offline for two days, and sewage backed up into residents’ homes. Through federal grants, $830 million has been invested in upgrades to make the plant more storm-resilient. They included the replacement of the power distribution system, new electrical substations, a floodwall around the plant and the hardening of 34 sewage pump stations.
One of the final pieces of the resiliency plan was supply additional electricity so that more effluent could be treated. Without more electric feeders from PSEG-LI, sludge could build up at the plant, or it could become inoperable. Additional electricity would also make the plant redundant, meaning that if a power source failed, another would kick in.
The delay in FEMA approval could impact the Ocean Outfall Diversion Plan, which would reroute treated effluent from the Bay Park plant to the Cedar Creek plant, on the Wantagh-Seaford border. It would do so through a 112-year-old aqueduct beneath Sunrise Highway that sent water from Long Island to New York City in the early 1900s.
Last month, the county’s Department of Public Works sent out a request for proposals for the project, asking engineers to come up with the best way to execute the plan. It included a request for designs for “slip-lining” the aqueduct with a new, smaller polyethylene pipe to guide the treated effluent the eight miles from Bay Park to Cedar Creek, where it would be sent three miles out into the Atlantic Ocean. Engineers would also need to devise routes to construct a pair of two-mile-long pipes to connect the aqueduct to Bay Park and Cedar Creek.
The project, which has an estimated cost of $350 million, would rely on the electric feeders being installed at Bay Park. The feeders must be designed by this summer to be available for September 2020, when the project would start. A delay would also push back the expected completion date of April 2022. The diversion plan is aimed at cleaning the Western Bays, where 52 million gallons of nitrogen-loaded effluent from the plant is pumped each day. The nitrogen has led to the loss of marine life and marshes, which are critical barriers in fending off coastal flooding during storms.
U.S. Sen. Charles Schumer recently wrote a letter to FEMA Administrator Brock Long, urging him to expedite the process. Schumer held a news conference at the Bay Park plant on March 28.
“For five years now, Nassau has worked to retool, recalibrate and remake this treatment plant into a better facility,” Schumer said. “And now, the final piece — a power plan — is one of the last things left standing between resiliency and risk. We cannot afford the risk, and so we are making an all-out push to get Nassau’s power plan to the top of the FEMA paperwork pile before it is too late. With today’s ever-changing climate, too late could come too soon, and so we have to make the effort to protect Long Island before the next storm forms, aims or hits us.”