Potential source of Crescent Beach pollution revealed

Mayor says release of draft report is politically motivated


The mysterious case of the contamination that has kept Glen Cove’s Crescent Beach closed since 2009 is one step closer to being solved.

According to a draft sanitary sewer feasibility study completed by the Woodbury-based D&B Engineers on behalf of the Nassau County Department of Public Works, the effluent is coming from four sewage outfall pipes that are not connected to a sewage-treatment system. The effluent enters a stream that leads into Hempstead Harbor and Crescent Beach.

“We had heard rumors that it was coming from the homes adjacent to the beach,” said Dr. Helen Greene, a 65-year Glen Cover. “Now that the study shows the accuracy of that, it is important that those parties responsible be held accountable, and be mandated to clean up the sewage problems.”

Samples taken in the stream between April and July detected excess fecal coliform and nitrogen. The report reveals that the four pipes are located along Valley Road and Cobble Court, near the Schein and Katz estates.

Nassau County Legislator Delia DeRiggi-Whitton, a Democrat from Glen Cove, and city officials, including City Councilman Tim Tenke, a Democratic candidate for mayor, shared the DPW’s draft report at a press conference last Friday.

DeRiggi-Whitton obtained the report at the end of September, but said she decided to wait to make it public until Friday because she hadn’t received enough information about plans for solving the problem from the Nassau County Board of Health or the city.

“I feel that it’s a very important environmental issue,” she said. “The report is in draft form, yet has been distributed to city officials, and clearly shows photos of pipes which are in question and elevated bacteria levels.” She added that the beach is contaminated with up to 1,000 times the allowable bacteria level.

Before the pipes were discovered during the study, the County Legislature had concluded that a new sewage system was needed in the area, which could cost up to $30 million. The Legislature set aside $10 million about three years ago to get that process started. But because the pipes appear to be coming from private property, DeRiggi-Whitton said, each of the homes is potentially responsible for fixing them, which could cost up to $20,000 per pipe.

For his part, Glen Cove Mayor Reggie Spinello said there had been no final determination on the exact source of the contaminates. “This report describes a few areas where there’s heavy bacterial count — from there, there’s still work to be done,” he said. “The county will have to decide the course of action.”

But Greene disagreed. “All representatives of the City of Glen Cove must take leading roles to see that this is done quickly,” she said, “for the residents of Glen Cove have waited a very long time.”

Spinello questioned why the county would release a draft instead of waiting for a final report, calling it premature and political. “The county is taking the lead on this, and at what point it gets handed off, the city will work hand in hand with the county,” he said. “It was a draft, and I got it about maybe a month ago . . . There’s still more work to be done.”

Tenke said that Spinello never notified the City Council that he had received the report. Tenke added that because the information in the report is available to the public under the Freedom of Information Law, the city is required by its own laws to investigate it.

“[The pipes] should have been investigated immediately by the city, notices should have went out, and the DEC should have been notified,” Tenke said. “I’m still asking the mayor and our building department to at least be in compliance with our own statue and the state law that action be taken immediately.”

Glen Cove resident Drew Lawrence, a superintendent of buildings for another municipality, has worked with DeRiggi-Whitton since 2009 to help update the remaining North Shore areas that are still without sewage service. “Under state building code, people are responsible for their properties and the systems that are on their properties,” he said. “You as a homeowner are responsible for fixing it, whatever that fix may be and whatever that cost may be.”

Lawrence said he was not certain whether the pipes were put there purposely to create an outflow, or whether the problem is cross-contamination from a drainpipe. If a homeowner cannot afford to fix the problem, he said, the city does offer free annual pump-outs for septic systems. But that won’t solve the problem.

DeRiggi-Whitton said that the water table is free of the bacteria, and the rest of the stream, south of the pipes, is also fine.

“The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation is awaiting the report concerning this illegal discharge from Nassau County,” said Erica Ringewald, a spokeswoman for the agency. “After reviewing the report, DEC will investigate this discharge to evaluate potential impacts to local waterways, identify the party responsible, and direct any necessary legal and regulatory actions to address it.”

“It seems like a simple fix to something that has troubled Glen Covers for a long time,” DeRiggi-Whitton said. “If this is done immediately, we should be able to have the beach open next summer.”