Federal officials have secured more than $5 million to begin the first phase of a project that will redirect treated effluent from the Bay Park Sewage Treatment Plant through an abandoned aqueduct along Sunrise Highway and to an outfall pipe three miles into the Atlantic Ocean.
The Federal Emergency Management Agency grant funds will allow the state to conduct an environmental assessment before construction of piping that would connect Bay Park to the county-owned aqueduct. The initial work also includes permitting, engineering and the hiring of a project manager.
The plan, which will cost more than $350 million in county, state and federal funds, is expected to solve the decades-old problem of nitrogen discharges from the East Rockaway plant degrading water quality in the Western Bays, destroying clamming and shellfish and wiping out marshland.
“We cannot risk a failed facility or sewage in our bays, so this funding could not come soon enough and will advance this critical project,” said Sen. Charles Schumer. “This important Bay Park project is vital to improving the health of the waterways within and off the coast of Long Island.”
The funds, Schumer said, are available from $210 million previously allocated in 2015 by FEMA through its Hazard Mitigation Grant Program. FEMA limits use of those funds to fix or improve facilities damaged in a natural disaster or to mitigate against future storms.
Superstorm Sandy overwhelmed Bay Park — which serves 532,000 Nassau residents — with more than 9 feet of saltwater. The 2012 storm knocked out power to the plant and sent more than 100 million gallons of raw sewage flowing into Reynolds Channel.
“This federal investment is critical to ongoing rebuilding efforts, including investment in resiliency that will ensure Bay Park is prepared for the next storm, and the risks and vulnerabilities exposed by superstorm Sandy are addressed,” Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand said.
County Executive Edward Mangano, a Republican who leaves office at year’s end, thanked Schumer for “his support of our plan to clean up our Western Bays and strengthen our shoreline against future storms.”
Mangano’s successor, Democrat Laura Curran, who takes office Jan. 1, said the funding “will restore health to the Western Bays. This is an issue that needs immediate attention and we look forward to working together to achieve that goal.”
The $354 million project calls for the construction of a two-mile connecting pipe system, traveling north from Bay Park to an aqueduct running under Sunrise Highway.
An eight-mile stretch of the 100-year-old aqueduct would be rehabilitated. An additional two-mile pipe would also be built, connecting the aqueduct to the existing Cedar Creek Sewage Treatment Plant outfall pipe. Effluent would then be carried into the Atlantic Ocean.
Work is expected to take up to five years to complete.
In total, federal officials have secured $1.38 billion to repair and harden the Bay Park plant.