A $439 million conveyance project to redirect partially treated sewage from its current outflow in Reynolds Channel, just south Island Park and Oceanside, to a location in the Atlantic Ocean three miles south of Wantagh is progressing, according New York State Department of Environmental Conservation officials.
The project, a joint effort between the DEC and Nassau County, will send effluent from the South Shore Water Reclamation Facility in Bay Park through 7.3 miles of newly installed pipe that will be inserted into an old aqueduct that runs underneath Sunrise Highway. From there, it will be sent to the Cedar Creek Wastewater Treatment Plant in Wantagh and then into the Ocean.
Construction of new shafts through which the piping will be inserted are under construction in Bay Park, East Rockaway, Rockville Centre and Wantagh, while the two in Oceanside are slated for an August start and another Rockville Centre shaft is scheduled for September.
The state and county already completed an environmental review, public outreach and materials procurement between February 2020 to April 2021.
At a July 14 Long Island Regional Planning Council meeting, DEC officials discussed how this and other projects will improve water quality in Nassau’s Western Bays, which have been degraded for decades by excessive nitrogen from the Bay Park sewage treatment plant.
The conveyance project’s primary goal is to reduce nitrogen in the bays, which accelerates the growth of seaweed to unnatural lengths. The seaweed breaks apart and rots, robbing marine life of dissolved oxygen in the water. There are now a number of “dead zones” in the bays.
DEC Project Director Andy Fera also said, “The root structure of the marshlands in the area do not grow as deep, which reduces the storm damage and coastal flooding protection that they afford to the mainland.” And he noted that shellfish and other aquatic life in the bays have relocated to find more suitable environments.
Fera addressed the plan to send effluent into the Atlantic. “A lot of people see this and they say, ‘Aren’t you taking the problem from one place and sending it to another?’” he said. “The reality is that in the ocean there is such a tremendous amount of mixing that goes on with the currents that it is actually able to diffuse without having impacts to the environment.”
It’s hoped, he said, that people will be able to return to shell fishing and swimming in the bays.
An environmental team of Hofstra University professors has helped run water-quality monitoring, analysis and reporting in Hempstead Bay. Dr. Steve Raciti, a Hofstra associate professor, said the conveyance project should reduce wastewater treatment plant nitrogen loads by 99 percent in the Western Bays.
“For decades the Western Bays have been poisoned by effluent from the Bay Park sewage treatment plant,” State Sen. Todd Kaminsky, a Democrat from Long Beach, said. “This game-changing solution will lead to a resurgence of this vital waterway, resulting in a better economy and a more resilient Long Island.”