Residents and environmentalists have long urged county and state officials to be more aggressive in their efforts to upgrade Nassau County’s aging sewage treatment plants.
Taking a bipartisan step in the right direction, Sen. Charles Schumer and Nassau County Executive Ed Mangano met with William Craig Fugate, the administrator of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, in Washington last week to present a five-part proposal that includes requests for additional funds for repairs, upgrades and environmental cleanup projects in and around the Bay Park Sewage Treatment Plant in East Rockaway. The proposal also asks the federal government to expedite existing projects and to review requests for reimbursement for money already spent on the plant.
Schumer and Mangano also asked FEMA to provide an additional $600 million for an outflow pipe that would send Bay Park’s daily output of up to 65 million gallons of treated sewage — along with 5 million gallons from the Long Beach sewage plant — two to three miles out into the Atlantic. They also requested that the Long Beach plant be converted into a pumping station.
During Hurricane Sandy, the 59-year-old Bay Park facility, which treats 42 percent of Nassau County’s sewage, was inundated with more than nine feet of saltwater, which destroyed its pumps, shut down its operating systems and overwhelmed a facility that was already in disrepair. One hundred million gallons of raw sewage flowed from the plant into Hewlett Bay in the two days after the storm. And between Oct. 29 and Dec. 21, 2012, when emergency repairs to the plant were finally completed, the county was forced to release an additional 2.2 billion gallons of partially treated sewage into the bay. The discharge from Bay Park was the second worst in the Northeast, and the worst in New York.
The best argument for the outflow pipe, which has been talked about for a decade, especially by environmental groups, is the probability that, sooner or later, another major storm will punish our area, and, according to Adrienne Esposito, executive director of the Citizens Campaign for the Environment, could be catastrophic for our bays.