More than $350 million in county, state and federal funding will be used redirect treated effluent from the Bay Park Sewage Treatment Plant through an abandoned aqueduct along Sunrise Highway and to an outfall pipe 3 miles into the Atlantic Ocean, officials announced Sunday.
The plan, which would cost $354 million and take four to five years to complete, is expected to solve a decades-old problem of nitrogen discharges from the East Rockaway plant that are degrading the water quality in the Western Bays, destroying shellfish and clamming, and eliminating marshland.
“It is a sin that we allowed the plant to operate for that length of time,” said Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo, who announced the project funding during a news conference in Oceanside on the fifth anniversary of superstorm Sandy.
The Oct. 29, 2012, storm overwhelmed Bay Park — which serves 532,000 Nassau County residents — with more than 9 feet of water, knocking out power and sending more than 100 million gallons of raw sewage into Reynolds Channel.
County officials will borrow roughly $157 million for the project and vote on the bonding next month. The state is to invest $120 million and the Federal Emergency Management Agency will put in $77 million.
Funds will be used to construct a 2-mile, 72-inch connecting pipe system, traveling north from Bay Park to a county-owned aqueduct that runs under Sunrise Highway. An 8-mile stretch of the 100-year-old aqueduct would be rehabilitated and relined with Fiberglas.
An additional 2-mile pipe would be built, connecting the aqueduct to the existing 6 1⁄2-mile Cedar Creek Sewage Treatment Plant outfall pipe. The treated effluent would then be carried into the Atlantic Ocean.
“This is the most important environmental project that our Island has seen in the past 50 years,” said Nassau County Executive Edward Mangano.
Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) called the effort “a great new plan” that will restore water quality along the shallow Western Bays.
The plan does not include funding to connect the Long Beach Sewage Treatment Plant to Bay Park.
FEMA previously provided $810 million to repair and harden the Bay Park plant.
After Sandy, Nassau officials unsuccessfully sought federal funding to build an ocean outfall pipe at Bay Park, a $650 million project that would have taken 10 years to complete.
The Bay Park treatment plant, built in 1949, releases 52 million gallons of treated sewage daily into Reynolds Channel off Long Beach Island. It has long been blamed for causing high nitrogen levels, significant blooms of macro-algae and degrading tidal marshland that served as a barrier against storm surges.
“When it comes to water quality on Long Island, nitrogen is public enemy number one,” State Department of Environmental Conservation Commissioner Basil Seggos said during the news conference.
Adrienne Esposito, executive director of the Citizens Campaign for the Environment, said residents should see the bays return to normal two years after the project is completed.
“The public will see cleaner water, the fish will return and we’ll be able to eat the shellfish again,” said Esposito, who has lobbied for the outfall pipe for two decades. “You’ll be able to see your toes in the water again.”