Suffolk officials have accepted a $187.78 million bid to construct the county’s largest project in nearly four decades, tunneling under the Great South Bay to replace a deteriorating outfall pipe that carries millions of gallons of treated wastewater from the Southwest Sewer District.
The winning bid, the lowest of five proposals, was put forward by OHL-Posillico-SELI Overseas, a joint venture, which came in nearly $20 million under the $207 million county lawmakers appropriated for the project. The other bids ranged from $197.5 million to $216 million.
Bidding on the outfall pipe had caused concern among public works officials, after bids to hook up the Ronkonkoma Hub, a 1,450 unit transit related development, to the Southwest Sewer District came in last summer at $36.8 million — $10 million over budget.
The developer, Tritec Real Estate, later agreed to build the pump station portion of the project itself.
Gil Anderson, a Suffolk public works commissioner, said work will begin in March, starting with land clearing at Cedar Beach on Fire Island. Boring machines will start digging the tunnel to accommodate a pipe 10 feet in diameter and 80 feet below the bay bottom.
The project, which is expected to take three years to complete, will span 14,000 feet to the Bergen Point Waste Treatment Plant in West Babylon.
The new pipe will connect to an existing ocean outfall pipe — made of different materials that have exhibited no problems — that will take the treated wastewater 3.4 miles out in the Atlantic Ocean.
The alarm was first sounded about the pipe in 2007 when consultants warned of potentially ”catastrophic environmental effects” after similar pipes, used in Texas and California, suffered breaks in high-tension wires wrapped around them, posing a serious threat of leaks.
Suffolk has suffered no leaks in the existing six-foot-in-diameter pipe, buried in a trench on the bay bottom in the late 1970s. Originally expected to last 80 to 100 years, a 5,000-foot section of the pipe, when tested, showed more than 717 broken wires; two of three consultants warned the pipe should be replaced “as soon as possible.”
Officials say the new pipe is essential to protect the bay — popular with boaters and fishermen — already threatened by algae blooms and other pollution issues. Tunneling, officials say, will avoid any detrimental impact on the bay or marine habitats.
The new outfall pipe will exceed the cost of Suffolk’s jail in Yaphank, opened in 2013 at a cost of $185 million and labeled by County Executive Steve Bellone as a “Taj Mahal,” and the Cohalan court complex in Central Islip, which had a price tag of $128 million when it opened in 1993.
Only the sewer district, which cost $1.2 billion, was more costly when first built, but state and federal aid paid for the bulk of the project.
“I think its good news we’re finally doing it,” said Legis. Kevin McCaffrey (D-Lindenhurst), who has the Bergen Point sewer plant in his district. “If we ever had a failure of the existing pipe it would be a tragedy for the Great South Bay and all our residents.”
Presiding Officer DuWayne Gregory (D-Copiague) said the project is “not only good for the environment, but it’s great that the project came in so much under budget.”