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Nassau legislators OK $66.4M bond to pay for rerouting Long Beach sewage

An aerial view of the Bay Park Sewage

An aerial view of the Bay Park Sewage Treatment Plant in East Rockaway, seen July 1, 2019. Photo Credit: Newsday / John Keating

Nassau County lawmakers on Monday approved County Executive Laura Curran's request to bond $66.4 million to reroute Long Beach sewage to the county’s treatment facility and stop the flow of sewage into Reynolds Channel.

The agreement between the county and the City of Long Beach would consolidate sewage treatment at the county’s Bay Park Water Pollution Control Plant.

The county would borrow for the construction cost of the project and Long Beach would repay the county with the sewer fees collected from its residents, legislators said. 

The project is aimed at restoring the ecosystem in the bays of western Nassau, supporters and environmental groups say. 

"We are all going to see the benefits of better water," said Legis. Denise Ford, a Long Beach Democrat who caucuses with the Republicans. 

“This is a plan in the making for 15 years," said Adrienne Esposito, executive director of the Citizens Campaign for the Environment. "This critical puzzle piece is real progress in our quest to restore the Western Bays. Improving treatment for Long Beach’s 3 to 5 million gallons per day of sewage will help improve water quality, restore wetlands, bring back fin fish and shellfish and protect public health." 

County Department of Public Works officials say the Bay Park plant has state-of-the-art treatment technologies after $830 million in upgrades and is better suited to address water quality than the Long Beach Sewage Treatment Plant.

Legislators voted 18-1, with Legis. Howard Kopel (R-Lawrence) casting the lone "no" vote citing concerns over the financial structure of the intermunicipal agreement, or IMA.

Several legislators expressed concern about whether the county would suffer if the City of Long Beach, which is struggling fiscally, were to file for bankruptcy.

"I am not confident that, under the IMA, the taxpayers of Nassau County are sufficiently protected from liability for costs of the project, which should be borne strictly by the City of Long Beach," Kopel said. "Unfortunately, the recent management of the city does not give me great assurance that its promises will be honored in a timely fashion."

The timing of the  construction also is unfair to the citizens of East Rockaway wholive near the  Bay Park plant, Kopel said.

The county has started preliminary designs, which could lead to the start of construction next year.

Officials said repairing and updating the city’s wastewater plant would cost more than $175 million, but construction of the pump station and 3-mile connection pipe would cost about $77 million. The project is expected to be completed by the end of 2022.

Long Beach would plan to transfer as much as 5 million gallons of raw sewage per day to Bay Park, limiting the amount of treated effluent flowing into Reynolds Channel and reducing ammonia and nitrogen levels in the water.

After the vote, Curran spokeswoman Christine Geed applauded the legislature's support of the project's funding, calling it "a win for the environment and the residents of the county.”

“Effluent from the City of Long Beach’s antiquated sewage treatment plant does not meet New York State’s current water quality standards," Geed said. 

Last month, facing a deadline for state grant funding, Curran, a Democrat, sought  the emergency vote from the GOP-controlled legislature.

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