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Sewer line delay inconveniences residents

The "dewatering" pipe has closed 12th Avenue in

The "dewatering" pipe has closed 12th Avenue in West Babylon since June. (Oct. 17, 2012) Credit: Newsday / Judy Cartwright

One new chapter in the "How Long Islanders Tolerate Inconvenience in the Name of Progress" saga is being written along Straight Path in the Town of Babylon:

Ground was broken two years ago for the sewer line that will connect Wyandanch with the Southwest Sewer District. Anyone who drives along Straight Path or lives nearby continues to endure the dust and delays; orange barrels cordon off sections where work is under way.

Just south of the Southern State Parkway, the impact on a West Babylon neighborhood has lasted much longer than expected.

A large above-ground pipe that extends into the neighborhood from Straight Path runs down the middle of streets for several blocks before it goes underground. Those streets have been closed.

The pipe, part of a "dewatering system," arrived in early June to drain water away from the underground sewer construction. A printed notice informed residents that access to driveways "might be unavailable for a day or two" while it was installed.

Concrete barriers were moved in to close off streets, including one next to Holly Bailey's home. As days passed without access to her driveway, Bailey called Babylon Town and then the project manager, who repositioned a barrier so she could enter the street. The turn is tight.

The project manager told her the work would be completed in a month. She waited two.

On Aug. 14, she checked in again -- and was told it would be another four to six weeks.

By mid-October, she was exasperated. Her yard has suffered collateral damage: Drivers who unwittingly enter the closed road wind up without an exit, then cut across her front lawn to escape. Now she's anticipating icy conditions that won't make the turning maneuver past the concrete barrier any easier.

"If there was an end in sight maybe I would be coping a little better," she told Watchdog.

Blame for the delay lies with the complexity of the underground work, town spokesman Tim Ruggeri said. The contractor encountered unanticipated difficulties that required a change in drilling technique.

And the state Department of Transportation had to sign off on the change, Ruggeri said, because the sewer project runs under the parkway. "Unfortunately that [reopening the approval process] has extended the amount of time" until completion, he said.

A new finish date has been set, Ruggeri said: Thanksgiving week. "We apologize to the residents who are inconvenienced," Ruggeri said. "The town wants to get this done as quickly as possible."

Holly Bailey does, too.




Tall weeds puts walkers at risk


The act of walking outdoors has taken on a new risk this season: Weeds have grown so tall and wide that drivers can't get a clear view of the roadside ahead.

One example is in Old Brookville, where sections of Chicken Valley Road got a vacation from summer mowing. Rita Piechucki lives nearby and enjoys walking for exercise, but as the vegetation expanded into the roadway, her enjoyment turned to frustration.

"The intersection with Piping Rock Road is so overrun with weeds, and they're taller than I am," said Piechucki, who said she tops out at 5-foot-11/2. "If we want to be healthy, we should be able to walk in our neighborhoods."

There's no need for worry when there are no weeds on the road's shoulders, she said. But the out-of-control vegetation has posed a hazard for walkers, runners and bicyclists, a group of whom passed as Watchdog joined her on a recent morning jaunt.

We were on the shoulder near the intersection with Piping Road Road when it became clear that drivers rounding the corner onto Chicken Valley didn't have a clear view. Making matters worse for anyone on foot or two wheels: Many drivers paid no heed to the intersection's No Turn on Red sign.

Chicken Valley is a Nassau County road, so we asked the county Department of Public Works if roadside mowing had fallen victim to budget tightening. That's not the case, the county said, adding that the abundant vegetation is the result of a "perfect" growing season.

"There have been no cutbacks to roadside mowing this year," department spokesman Michael Martino said in an email. "The DPW continues to maintain its regular mowing schedule." Instead, he said, "unseasonably warm winter and perfect growing conditions this summer have contributed to the fast growing vegetation throughout the county."

Piechucki said she believes Chicken Valley got at least one mowing in previous summers. This year's arrived Monday, a few days after Watchdog's inquiry. "As I am speaking to you they are cutting the weeds on Chicken Valley," Piechucki reported in a voice mail.

"It's so much better," she said later. "And all it took was one sweep of the mower."

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