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The Birches prepares to connect to county sewage plant

Work to end persistent flooding and sewage problems in a Locust Valley neighborhood is nearing an end - on budget and only about a month behind schedule, officials said.

Nassau County and the Town of Oyster Bay agreed early last year to split the $13.2-million cost to connect The Birches development of about 50 homes to the county's sewage treatment plant in Glen Cove. At the time, leaders estimated completion by this month.

Late last month, county public works staff said three miles of pipe to connect the neighborhood to the plant should be in place by January. After that, equipment will be tested and the site landscaped before any homes are connected.

"To be a month late on a major part of work, I would be very happy if they all went like this," said Ken Arnold, assistant to the public works commissioner.

Residents who endured years of delays and neglect had few complaints with the work. Each of the affected homes will pay from $5,000 to $15,000 to connect to the new system.

"Everyone has to come up with that money themselves and it's a large expense," said Terri Alesi, a resident of Allen Drive, a street plagued with septic backups and flooding. "But in the long run, it'll be great."

Alesi and her husband pump out their septic system every several weeks. Residents have learned to minimize water use, even during the holidays with homes full of visitors.

Built during a 1960s drought, The Birches had problems immediately, as water levels rose back to normal levels. Proposed solutions over the years failed from lack of funding or local opposition. Residents vehemently opposed the last suggested fix - building a neighborhood treatment plant.

Since the 2009 agreement to connect the area to the existing plant, heavy truck traffic has been constant as workers installed storm drains, a sewage collection system and the connecting pipe.

Susanne Seperson, a 34-year Birches resident, has had few problems with flooding since she and her husband decided 20 years ago to spend more than $10,000 to raise their basement floor and install a new drainage system. They're in no hurry to hook up to the county system.

"Until I know that it works for sure," Seperson said, "I still have to be a little bit skeptical."

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