Newly available federal funds could help finance what one county official called the most important environmental project facing Nassau County -- construction of an outfall pipe from Nassau's Bay Park Sewage Treatment Plant to steer damaging effluent away from local waterways and into the ocean.
The Federal Emergency Management Agency late last month approved an additional $210 million in Hazard Mitigation Grant Program funds for New York, which Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) said Monday should be directed to fund part of the outfall pipe that he called "vital to improving the health of waterways on Long Island."
Schumer, who spoke at a news conference at the Magnolia Pier in Long Beach along with Nassau County Executive Edward Mangano, said the new funding is the "final piece of the Bay Park puzzle." After superstorm Sandy, 100 million gallons of sludge were dumped into Reynolds Channel when the plant was knocked offline for two days when saltwater entered the facility.
Mangano called the outfall pipe construction "the most important environmental project facing our county," adding, "It will clean up our waterways; it will strengthen our shoreline; it will help recreational boating, recreational swimming . . . [and] the commercial fishing industry."
Mangano said 550,000 county residents use the plant's services. The new outfall pipe would take the plant's average daily 50 million gallons of treated effluent into the Atlantic Ocean instead of Reynolds Channel.
FEMA repeatedly has rejected state and federal requests for public-assistance funding for the ocean-outfall pipe on the grounds the pipe hadn't existed when Sandy hit. But money from the hazard-mitigation program can be used for projects that weren't damaged by Sandy, officials have said.
Schumer said this is the answer to the state's request "to find new sources of federal money, once it was clear that FEMA wouldn't fund it directly out of their money. So here we are and I'm very hopeful." He added: "They know how important this is. This is a new source of federal money."
"Between the federal government and the state, I believe we can now come up with the $550 million needed for the outfall pipe," Schumer said.
Asked for comment, Barbara Brancaccio, a spokeswoman for the Governor's Office of Storm Recovery, said: "We have not been formally notified of this additional formula-based funding. If New York is to receive additional FEMA money, we will discuss all potential uses of the funding, including for the outfall pipe."
Fisherman Willy Ahlers, 72, of New Hyde Park, who was casting for flukes at the pier Monday morning, said although "it's a lot of money involved" to fund the pipe, it's worth it, because "they're killing the bay here."