State contractors have finished a tunneling project as part of...

State contractors have finished a tunneling project as part of a nearly $500 million effort to pump treated sewage out of Reynolds Channel and into the Atlantic Ocean. Credit: Morgan Campbell

State contractors have finished tunneling under Sunrise Highway in Hempstead as part of a nearly $500 million project to pump 55 million gallons of treated sewage out of Reynolds Channel and into the Atlantic Ocean.

It's the first phase of three years of construction on the project by the state and Nassau County, Gov. Kathy Hochul's office said Tuesday. The first phase, which used $158 million in state grants, included boring the 11-mile tunnel from the Bay Park Sewage Treatment Plant in East Rockaway to a 3-mile ocean outfall pipe at the Cedar Creek Water Pollution Control Plant in Wantagh.

Long Island leaders have supported the proposal for more than a decade with hopes of eliminating nitrogen and effluent pumped into the Western Bays and restoring 10,000 acres of water and tidal marshlands from Atlantic Beach to Point Lookout. The effort also aims to improve water quality in Reynolds Channel’s ecosystem for fishing, swimming and storm protection in the coming years.

“The Bay Park Conveyance Project is one of the most innovative infrastructure projects in the nation and an example of our state’s commitment to securing a healthier and more sustainable future for New Yorkers,” Hochul said in a statement. “With the conclusion of this phase of work, we are making important progress to ensure Long Island has access to clean water and create healthy and resilient ecosystems.”

Officials have said the effluent has decimated marshlands with high levels of nitrogen, low oxygen and algae blooms. The marshlands can serve as a natural storm barrier to coastal communities.

Crews working on the tunnel built a new pipeline that extends from Bay Park to Sunrise Highway and then to Rockville Centre. The pipeline was extended another 1.5 miles to connect to Cedar Creek. Workers added sliplining to an existing century-old aqueduct below Sunrise Highway that has not been used since the 1960s. It was first built to transfer drinking water from Nassau County and New York City. 

The state Department of Environmental Conservation worked with a team of contractors using two boring machines, named “Marsh-Mellow” and “P.O.S.E.I.D.O.N.” by students at three Oceanside elementary schools. Workers installed nearly 38,000 linear feet of pipe in more than 7 miles of the abandoned aqueduct. It is set to be tested this year and could be functioning sometime in 2025.

Nassau County passed $460 million in bonds for the Bay Park project. Previously, $830 million in state and federal grants helped refurbish the Bay Park Sewage Treatment Plant after it was damaged during Superstorm Sandy.

Long Beach and Nassau County had previously approved $80 million in grants and bonds to convert the city's water treatment plant into a pump station. The funds will also be used to build a pipeline from Long Beach to Bay Park, where the city’s 5 million gallons of daily sewage will be treated and transferred to the Cedar Creek plant in Wantagh.

Long Beach City Council President Brendan Finn recalled previously swimming in Reynolds Channel with hopes it may be restored once again.

“I used to swim in that bay all the time as a kid and this project is instrumental to the resurgence of the Long Beach ecosystem," Finn said. "We're reclaiming four acres of prime bayfront property and bringing the bay itself back to health for the first time in a generation. This project is going to be nothing short of transformative for the City of Long Beach and the entire Western Bays area.”

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