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Saturday, August 23, 2014
Editorial
Treatment plant politics just stink

We are surprised –– astounded, really –– that the Nassau County Legislature would choose to play politics with the severely damaged Bay Park Sewage Treatment Plant, which was built in 1955 and serves 40 percent of county residents.

Hurricane Sandy overran the plant with nine feet of saltwater, crippling it for 44 days and leaving half a million people vulnerable. Many wondered whether they would be able to flush their toilets from day to day.

A hundred million gallons of raw sewage flowed from the plant into Hewlett Bay in the first two days after the storm, according to a report, “Hurricane Sandy’s Untold Filthy Legacy,” published in April by Climate Central, a New Jersey-based environmental group that analyzes climate change. Additionally, the county was forced to release 2.2 billion gallons of partially treated sewage into Reynolds Channel from Oct. 29 to Dec. 21, when repairs to the plant were finally completed. The discharge from Bay Park was the second worst in the Northeast –– and the worst in New York.

Today the plant is operational, but on life support, kept alive by emergency generators –– which cost the county $700,000 a month. Shouldn’t any of this matter to our legislators –– both Democrats and Republicans? Apparently not.

A recent vote to bond more than $700 million to fund repairs to the aging plant –– many of which are a very long time coming — failed. Republicans hold a 10-9 majority in the Legislature, and all 10 of them voted to bond the full $722 million, as did Democrat David Denenberg, of Merrick. But borrowing requires a supermajority of 13 votes to pass. With only 11 votes, there wasn’t enough support to pass the bond vote.

Instead, legislators agreed to borrow $266 million to start the long, arduous process of repairing the plant. A second vote to bond more is expected in September. We hope it passes. The first round of borrowing didn’t provide enough money to raise the plant’s electrical system to protect it in the event of flooding, let alone fortify the plant against a Category 2 or 3 hurricane. (It’s important to remember that Sandy was technically a tropical storm when it struck Long Island.)

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