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Official: Atlantic Beach sewer plant may fail

Unlike the neighboring City of Long Beach, residents still have an operating sewage-processing system in Atlantic Beach, Atlantic Beach Estates and East Atlantic Beach.

But the question, Anthony Licatesi, a commissioner of the Greater Atlantic Beach Water Reclamation District, said today, is for how long?

The area remains without electricity. That means the main sewage-plant pumps are not operating, and Licatesi said the reclamation plant has instead been using auxiliary generators -- and auxiliary pumps. Now, there is a fear, he said, that those are overburdened and might soon fail.

Even worse, Licatesi said, is despite being an elected official, he can't reach anyone who can give him an answer as to what's going on. Not at the office of Town of Hempstead Supervisor Kate Murray.

Not at LIPA.

"We're just dumbfounded as to what's going on right now," Licatesi said. "I'm an elected official . . . I can't get through to anyone -- and no one knows anything. It's just incredible that they're [LIPA] putting the public safety at risk. If our system goes down, we can contaminate the public water and public homes, and create a public health hazard.

"To be treating this that cavalierly is amazing," he said.

Licatesi, an attorney with the Garden City firm of Rubin and Licatesi, said he has considered filing a lawsuit in Nassau County in an attempt to get some answers, but said it probably wouldn't be on the court calendar for weeks. And time is of the essence, he said. The equipment being used is not meant for the job it's doing.

"The pumps are auxiliary pumps," he said. "They're not designed for this. The generators are also not meant to take this kind of abuse."

The biggest frustration, Licatesi said, is that there really seems to be no chain of command -- and no plan.

"If I was making the decisions for LIPA," he said, "I would ensure the power to the industrial plants that keep a neighborhood going, and at the top of that list would be a sanitary or sewer plant essential to the public safety."

He also said he thinks that, once the dust from the superstorm Sandy recovery and restoration settles, "we need to re-examine how we handle emergency priorities."

Noting that "Our workers have done an extraordinary job," Licatesi cautioned, ". . . we're hanging on by a thread -- and no one seems to care about that."

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