Nassau seeks $500M for Bay Park sewage pipe

Nassau County Executive Edward Mangano talks with some

Nassau County Executive Edward Mangano talks with some locals who are expressing their concerns before the meeting at the Bay Park Wastewater Treatment Plant in East Rockaway. (May 14, 2013) (Credit: Newsday / J. Conrad Williams, Jr.)

Nassau County Executive Edward Mangano is seeking more than $500 million of the state's $30 billion superstorm Sandy aid package to build an outfall pipe to transport treated sewage from Bay Park Wastewater Treatment Plant to the Atlantic Ocean.

Mangano made the announcement Tuesday at the East Rockaway plant to an audience that included local homeowners wearing hazardous-material suits and gas masks to highlight odors in the area since Sandy.

"We are in a fragile state," Mangano said. "We want to move as quickly as possible to begin the reconstruction and mitigation phases."

In addition to the construction of the 21/2-mile outfall pipe, Nassau wants $740 million of the federal aid to New York to improve the plant's electrical power supply and distribution system, odor control and other aspects of plant operations.

Mangano said neither the state nor the federal government has given him a firm commitment on funding for plant repairs.

Adrienne Esposito, executive director of the nonprofit Citizens Campaign for the Environment, said she supports Mangano's push for more than $1.2 billion in funding for the plant. "They are a basic human necessity," she said of plant services. "They are not a luxury item."

The plant, which serves 40 percent of the county's population, or about 500,000 residents, was knocked offline for two days after 9 feet of saltwater entered the facility during Sandy.

For more than a month, the plant released some 65 million gallons a day of partially treated sludge into Reynolds Channel, which flows into the Atlantic Ocean. It took 44 days to fully restore plant operations.

Environmental groups said the outflow pipe would prevent such a reoccurrence.

"This will save Reynolds Channel and it will save the marshlands," said Scott Bochner, co-founder of Sludge Stoppers Task Force. "Oysters and shellfish will come back."

The Oct. 29 storm also destroyed Bay Park's dewatering facility, used to dry a portion of the waste before trucking it away. Nassau set up a temporary outdoor drying station that produces odors that residents say are evident blocks away.

"Our kids can't go to the playground," said Kathleen Acuti, 37, who appeared at the Mangano event in a white hazmat suit and medical mask. "They can't go in the water or fish. We want answers."

Mangano said the drying station is moving to the back of the plant, which should reduce the odor homeowners are experiencing.

Democratic county legislators said Mangano could have acted before Sandy to bolster the plant's infrastructure. Legis. Dave Denenberg (D-Merrick) said Nassau spent only $70 million of the $400 million the legislature approved in 2009 for sewer upgrades. "If these projects were timely implemented instead of delayed, it is likely the damage caused by Sandy would not have been as severe," he said.

Deputy County Executive Rob Walker said $250 million in repairs are proceeding at the plant and that Democrats ignored the plant when they controlled county government.Also last week, an electrical failure that officials said was caused by saltwater corrosion temporarily shut down the plant. Nassau officials say they are working with the state Department of Environmental Conservation to determine the cause of the incident, but that sewage did not spill into the channel.

The state's two Democratic senators said they supported funds from the Sandy aid bill going to Bay Park.

"The Sandy aid bill included funds to rebuild critical infrastructure on Long Island, and make it stronger than it was before," said Sen. Charles Schumer. "Repairing and improving the Bay Park sewage treatment plant, so it is brought up to 21st century standards, would certainly be a good use of some of those funds.

Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand added: "It is critical that we upgrade these facilities to prevent future spills and to protect the health and well-being of Long Islanders."

- With Sid Cassese

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