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Nassau lawmakers authorize $408 million in bonding for sewage plan

The Nassau County Legislature on Monday voted unanimously to give the county authority to borrow more than $408 million for construction of a system to divert treated sewage from the Bay Park Sewage Treatment Plant to an ocean outfall pipe at the Cedar Creek Water Pollution Control Plant in Wantagh, part of an ambitious state and county plan to remove nitrogen from the Western Bays.

The project, announced in 2017 by Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo, would eliminate discharge of treated wastewater into Reynolds Channel by diverting it to the outfall pipe, which starts at Cedar Creek and empties roughly three miles off the coast of Jones Beach, officials said.

Connecting to the outfall would end discharge of about 19 billion gallons of effluent into the Western Bays annually, officials said. The project would help revitalize marshlands and protect coastal areas from future storms.

Cedar Creek’s outfall pipe extends three miles into the Atlantic Ocean and can handle a maximum flow of 200 million gallons per day.

“The Bay Park Conveyance Project will help prevent the major source of nitrogen pollution from degrading marsh islands and damaging the delicate ecosystem that helps protect Long Island’s coast from devastating waves and storm surges,” Cuomo said in a statement Monday. “New York’s innovative efforts to improve our infrastructure will be instrumental in protecting water quality and will support stronger, more resilient communities that are prepared to withstand extreme weather.”

County officials said they rushed to pass the bonding due to a Sept. 13 deadline to apply for grant funding. The grant was announced in late July, said county Public Works Commissioner Ken Arnold.

The conveyance project is projected to cost between $460 and $480 million, Arnold said. The state has committed to spending $73 million to help offset the cost of the project, and Nassau needed to show it had the ability to borrow for the total cost of the project in order to be eligible for the state funding, Arnold said.

The federal government also will contribute $77 million, Arnold said.

Arnold said the county would not need to borrow its share of the project cost immediately.

Under the plan, the treated sewage will be pumped to an aqueduct under Sunrise Highway to the outflow pipe at Cedar Creek. State officials said use of the aqueduct would save at least $200 million and ensure that the project wouldn’t take years to complete.

The Cedar Creek outfall pipe has “adequate capacity” to handle effluent from Bay Park, county officials said in legislative documents.

Nitrogen in the effluent from Bay Park, which serves 500,000 people, has caused severe environmental damage to Reynolds Channel in the Western Bays, a series of waterways that are part of the South Shore Estuary Reserve.

The legislature approved the bonding authority on an 18-0 vote on an “emergency” basis.

Legis. Steve Rhoads (R-Bellmore) expressed concern about authorizing such a large amount of borrowing on an emergency vote.

Rhoads said legislators were, “forced to consider at the last minute significant proposals involving a tremendous amount of taxpayer dollars, potentially, while we’re under the gun to make sure it gets done in advance of the deadline, otherwise we could lose funding.”

Also Monday, Nassau entered into a $16.6 million contract with AECOM USA, which will work with the state and county to develop a proposals package for companies to bid on construction and engineering work for the sewage project.

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