Editorial

Cleaner water in store for the South Shore

Posted

While Nassau County legislators may be divided on many issues, they recently made it clear that they agree on the importance of protecting Long Island’s wetlands.

On Sept. 9, the County Legislature unanimously approved a $408 million plan to build a system to divert treated sewage from Bay Park to Wantagh, where it will flow into the Atlantic Ocean. Currently, an estimated 19 billion gallons of treated wastewater flows into the Western Bays each year. Nitrogen pollution from this wastewater has caused untold damage to the wetlands. With the treated sewage diverted, the wetlands will be rejuvenated, experts say.

This is about more than just cleaner water in the Western Bays. The wetlands are crucial for protecting Long Island from storm damage — they are our only natural defense in a hurricane — and it is up to us to ensure that they are protected. Long Island is surrounded by barrier islands, with thousands of acres of wetlands and hundreds of mudflat islands, where marsh grass grows. The mudflats act as giant sponges in major storms, soaking up the storm surge. Without these wetlands, a hurricane’s storm surge would slam straight into the shore, causing even greater damage to homes and businesses. Many more people might die.

The Bay Park Conveyance Project will send treated water from the Bay Park Water Reclamation Facility to an ocean outfall pipe at the Cedar Creek Water Pollution Control Plant in Wantagh using a 100-year-old aqueduct beneath Sunrise Highway. The Bay Park plant, built in 1941, serves 500,000 residents and discharges an average of 52 million gallons of treated water into Reynolds Channel per day. Nitrogen from the wastewater impacts nearly 10,000 acres of water and tidal marshland from Atlantic Beach to Point Lookout.

Approval of funding for this project is one very big step forward for Long Island.