State: Nassau plant illegally discharging sludge

A sewage treatment plant owned and operated by Nassau County has been illegally discharging sludge into Reynolds Channel since at least March, the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation said Thursday.

The Bay Park Sewage treatment plant has been sporadically discharging more suspended solids than allowed by environmental law. Many of these particles are supposed to be separated out from treated wastewater and retained at the plant.

"We determined so far it's not raw sewage," said William Spitz regional water manager for the DEC. "It's treated, disinfected sewage."

The DEC has been aware of the illegal discharge for months, Spitz said, but not to the extent of the problem as reported over the weekend.

On Oct. 16, the county-owned plant discharged 3.0 parts per million of solid materials, ten times the legal limit of 0.3 parts per million, according to a report issued by Richard Cotugno, superintendent of Nassau County sewage plants. On Oct. 17, the discharge level reached 2.9 parts per million.

In an e-mail sent yesterday, Mike Martino, a spokesman for County Executive Edward Mangano, said Nassau is working with the DEC to fix the problem. However, Martino did not explain the illegal discharging or answer other questions.

"We inherited an aging and neglected sewer facility from the prior administration, and have taken extraordinary steps to reverse years of neglect," Martino said. "It will take sometime for all the capital improvements to be implemented."

Negotiations have been going on since May, said Spitz, who could not discuss details.

The DEC initially became aware of the illegal discharge problem from the county's monthly report.

"As an enforcement agency, we can fine them," Spitz said. "We can't shut the plant down but we will use every tool in the box to bring about compliance."

Meanwhile, residents have to cope with the sight and smell of sludge. Standing near West Bay Drive in Long Beach yesterday afternoon, resident Scott Bochner could see a large ring of brown sludge moving across Reynolds Channel in what he said has been a regular sight.

"The brown sludge easily extends almost the width of the channel and three football fields down the channel," he said. "You can't see anything but deep, dark brown sludge."And the stench, he said, is obnoxious.

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