The long-awaited $13 million sewage upgrade in Great Neck is expected to be completed in the fall, capping years of effort to integrate the treatment process to cut costs, increase revenue and reduce emissions, officials said last week.
The Great Neck Water Pollution Control District started construction last April to revamp its aging digesters, add a microturbine and build Nassau County’s first grease reception station, although research and planning work began more than a decade ago.
The grease is collected from local restaurants and food-preparation sites, and will be transported to the reception station by commercial haulers.
The addition of a third microturbine was the first to be completed last fall, and the three jet-engine-like machines are generating half of the electricity and all of the heat that the district’s plant, on East Shore Road, consumes.
“We’re assuming next year when everything is up and running … that the utility savings will be more in the realm of $150,000,” said Steve Reiter, a water pollution control district commissioner.
Once fully upgraded, the microturbines will work in synergy with the digesters and the new grease station, district officials said.
Adding grease to the digesters helps the anaerobic tanks further break down organic matter without oxygen, creating more biogas — mostly methane — as byproduct.
“The grease receiving station is like taking Red Bull and putting it into the digester,” Reiter said. “It makes the bugs [bacteria] hyperactive, and they produce more methane gas.”
The methane is then fed into the microturbines to generate electricity and heat, which in turn is captured to power the facility.
Once the grease station opens, district officials project it to generate $100,000 in annual tipping fees to take in the grease if the district charges 20 to 25 cents a gallon and handles 1,300 to 1,500 gallons a day.
The reaction from mixing grease and organic waste also leaves less biosolid, or treated sewage sludge, to be hauled off, which water pollution control district officials said would cut the sludge-hauling cost by $120,000 a year.
“Hauling and processing biosolids is the second-largest line item in the budget” after electric costs, said control district Superintendent Christopher Murphy, whose district has an annual budget of $10 million. “This is about as free of a lunch as you can get.”
The environment would also benefit from the reduced carbon footprint when trucks no longer have to travel to Suffolk County or New Jersey to dispose of grease collected from local restaurants, officials said.
District officials said they encourage other Long Island treatment plants to replicate their project, which earned the district an Environmental Excellence Award in 2018 from the state Department of Environmental Conservation.
THE PRICE OF PROGRESS
$10M / Cost to revamp three anaerobic digesters
$2M / Cost to build grease receiving station
$1M / Cost to add a third microturbine
$12.2.M / Amount of 2017 state grant to fund construction