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State seeks $150M federal grant for ocean pipe at Nassau's Sandy-damaged sewage plant

The Bay Park sewage treatment plant discharges its

The Bay Park sewage treatment plant discharges its effluent into Reynolds Channel on Sept. 3, 2015. Photo Credit: Jessica Rotkiewicz

New York State has applied for a $150 million federal grant to help build a pipe to send effluent from Nassau County's Sandy-damaged sewage treatment plant into the ocean instead of into the Western Bays, officials said yesterday.

The 5.3-mile-long pipe, which would protect the bays from nitrogen pollution, had been estimated to cost $540 million, but Friday the state put its price tag at $450 million.

Securing the $150 million requires winning a grant from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development's National Disaster Resilience Competition. Winners should be announced next year.

New York also wants Nassau to contribute $104 million of capital and $45.4 million of grants and loans.

The remaining funding for Bay Park Sewage Treatment Plant's new pipe would come from another $150 million of federal aid previously sought for removing nitrogen from the facility, said Barbara Brancaccio, a spokeswoman for the Governor's Office of Storm Recovery. The plant now spews 50 million gallons per day of untreated effluent into Reynolds Channel, causing algae blooms and destroying wetlands needed to absorb storm surges.

New York said more studies were needed to determine whether more nitrogen should be removed at the plant in addition to installing the ocean pipe.

Building the pipe will take five to seven years and work might start early next year.

However, the U.S. Environmental Protection Administration wants New York to pair the short-term solution, extracting nitrogen, with the long-term solution, the new pipe.

"EPA feels very strongly that both an ocean outfall and nitrogen removal are needed at the Bay Park sewage treatment plant to address serious water quality issues in the Western Bays," Mary Mears, a spokeswoman for the agency, said by email. "It's imperative that Nassau County install nitrogen removal at the plant to ensure that the Western Bays are not further damaged in the shorter term at the same time they pursue the ocean outfall as a longer term solution," she said.

Nassau County Executive Edward P. Mangano said in a statement: "We hope HUD will also recognize the potential to ensure the health and resilience of our coastal ecologies and economies alike."

Carl LoBue, senior marine scientist with the Nature Conservancy in New York, stressed the importance of removing nitrogen before discharging effluent.

"We can't just keep polluting the bay until the outfall pipe [is built], and because of the value of the ocean, we need to make sure we do what's right," he said.

And the EPA in January 2014 wrote the DEC that part of the New York Bight, from Montauk to Cape May, already exceeds New York's standard for dissolved oxygen, which can harm fish and shellfish.

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