We’re tempted to say that Hempstead Town Supervisor Anthony Santino’s recent remarks opposing a well-conceived plan to clean up the Western Bays is evidence that the silly season of politics is upon us. Santino is up for re-election in November, and his comments seemed calculated to appeal to a particular group of Hempstead Town voters.
But his words were more than silly. They were just plain wrong. And they were a disservice to all residents of Nassau County.
Santino wants to stop a smart plan to convert the Long Beach sewage treatment plant into a pumping station that would then pipe the city’s raw sewage to the county’s Bay Park plant for treatment. From there, it would be sent via a proposed system of pipes to the Cedar Creek plant’s outfall pipe for disposal three miles out into the Atlantic Ocean. It’s an ingenious proposal that would save millions of dollars, and it’s advancing smoothly with bipartisan support from county and state officials and environmentalists. Santino says it would increase odor and water pollution problems near homes in Bay Park and East Rockaway. He’s wrong.
The Long Beach plant is polluting nitrogen-choked Reynolds Channel, part of the increasingly impaired Western Bays ecosystem. It should be shut down because it’s violating its state permit by exceeding allowable levels of ammonia, suspended solids, coliform, methylene chloride and toluene, among others.
Bay Park, on the other hand, has been rebuilt since superstorm Sandy with state-of-the-art technology, including two methods of removing nitrogen, and it produces far cleaner effluent. This plan would direct the combined effluent of Long Beach and Bay Park into the ocean rather than in Reynolds Channel. Cleaner water is a benefit for everyone who recreates in and on it, and will help restore marshlands that are natural defenses against storms. Santino’s pandering to a small group of constituents whose fears are not grounded in fact is an affront not only to Hempstead Town residents but Nassau’s entire South Shore.
Turning the Long Beach plant into a pumping station, not upgrading it, is projected to save $128 million, and it covers virtually all of the shared-services plan submitted by Nassau as part of a state mandate to cut expenses. The plan, in other words, is both an environmental winner and financially sound.
Santino’s opposition is the real pollution here.