An aqueduct used more than 100 years ago to transport water is in “near pristine” condition and Nassau County officials say they want to use it to divert treated effluent from a wastewater treatment facility in Bay Park to an outfall pipe at Cedar Creek Sewage Treatment Plant in Wantagh.
By the end of June or early July, the county will seek bids on design work for lining the aqueduct, building pipes from the Bay Park facility to Cedar Creek’s outfall pipe and converting the Long Beach Sewage Treatment Plant into a pumping station, said Brian Schneider, Nassau’s deputy commissioner of public works.
“Everything that we have seen so far in that pipe indicates that we can actively reuse it,” Schneider said during a Long Island Clean Water Partnership conference in Hauppauge on Thursday. “It’s amazing. It was built in 1906 and it’s still in great condition.”
Bay Park, which was built in 1949 and refurbished in 1996, releases its treated wastewater effluent into Reynolds Channel off Long Beach Island. It has long been blamed for causing high nitrogen levels and degraded marshes in the Western Bays.
Schneider said diverting to Cedar Creek would reduce the amount of nitrogen released into the Western Bays by about 99.4 percent.
Stopping that flow could reverse the damage, something hailed by environmentalists.
“It’s a great alternative to take care of such a huge problem in the Western Bays,” said Scott Bochner, a member of the Long Beach environmental advisory board. “We need to stop what’s going on there.”
R. Lawrence Swanson, associate dean for Stony Brook University’s School of Marine and Atmospheric Sciences, said it would not take long for nitrogen levels to fall.
“I think we could see considerable impact in the matter of a year or two,” he said.
After superstorm Sandy hit in 2012, knocking power offline and sending partially treated sewage into Reynolds Channel, the county and state considered building an ocean outfall pipe from Bay Park or installing significant upgrades at the facility. Costs estimates ranged from $502 million to nearly $663 million for construction alone. Full funding never materialized.
Then, last year, the aqueduct plan with a cost estimate of $360 million surfaced. It would require piping treated effluent from Bay Park to the aqueduct along Sunrise Highway and connecting to a new pipe that would meet the Cedar Creek outfall pipe.
Long Beach City Manager Jack Schnirman said the city was working with the county and state to make it happen.
A State Department of Environmental Conservation spokesman said the agency “continues to work with the County to finalize the evaluation of the aqueduct and engineering analysis and develop necessary agreements to advance this proposal.”
But Swanson cautioned that before anything happens, there needs to be a study about how effluent from Cedar Creek affects the ocean and where it moves.
“We should be looking at the environmental consequences of essentially doubling the amount of effluent released into the ocean,” Swanson said.
The idea is not without opponents.
Claudia Borecky — a director of the advocacy group LI Clean Air, Water and Soil — says she is concerned about capacity and transporting the treated effluent.
“I just feel the pipe will not be able to handle the extra effluent,” she said. “Definitely something needs to be done. I just don’t see bringing it through all the communities as the right solution.”