Superstorm Sandy caused serious damage to three Nassau County sewage treatment plants, sending effluent pouring into dozens of homes from Lawrence to East Rockaway and leaving exhausted residents looking for a new place to live.
But, while homeowners spent Thursday discarding contaminated furniture, Nassau officials said operations had been partially restored at East Rockaway's Bay Park Sewage Treatment plant. The plant went offline Tuesday after more than nine feet of seawater breached the facility's basement and subbasement after the storm.
Nassau County Executive Edward Mangano said the plant, which serves 550,000 Nassau residents, is now partially operational and pumping 85 million gallons of sewage per day, up from its typical pumping of 70 million gallons. Mangano is urging residents to avoid overwhelming the system by continuing to conserve water in affected areas through Saturday, but said the water is safe to drink.
"There is still a tremendous amount of work that needs to be done but the public health emergency is lessening," Mangano said.
The news, however, was not all good.
Michael Krokowski, 46, lost the entire first floor of his home on Barnes Avenue in Baldwin when a mix of water and sewage flowed through his front door during the storm.
Krokowski, who has lived in the house for 17 years, threw away cabinets, televisions, dining room furniture, a refrigerator and bathroom fixtures. At least 35 other residents, he said, suffered similar fates.
"It's just horrendous," said Krokowski, a foreman at Bellmore Steel. "It's devastating."
On Thursday, gallons of foul-smelling sewage continued to rapidly pour from two huge cracks in the pavement along Barnes Avenue, including at one spot in front of Joe Swinton's home.
"We've lost everything," said Swinton, 60, an airline engineer who has lived on the block for 38 years. "Our home is gone."
Sewage also seeped into at least 15 homes near Emmet Avenue in East Rockaway after a broken pipe caused a sinkhole in the street, Mangano said. Homeowners in Bay Park and Rockville Centre also reported raw sewage in their basements.
Effluent has also poured into the basements of roughly 50 homes in Lawrence -- just blocks from its sewage treatment plant. The Lawrence plant was pummeled by seawater and shut down for eight hours during Sandy, said Mayor Martin Oliner. None of the residents has evacuated and the power is still out in the neighborhood, he said.
"I have a major health emergency now," Oliner said. "We have lots of people with five to seven feet of water and sewage in their homes and we can't do anything about it."
"I fear this situation will only get worse," Esposito said.
The Long Beach sewage treatment plant, which also went down after the storm, began pumping and treating effluent Thursday, but officials did not have a time frame for when full services would be restored, said City Manager Jack Schnirman.
With Yancey Roy, James T. Madore and Emily Dooley