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Editorial: Pick contractors honestly and get Nassau sewers fixed

The Bay Park Sewage Treatment Plant was damaged

The Bay Park Sewage Treatment Plant was damaged by superstorm Sandy. Millions of gallons of partially treated sewage from the plant are flushing each day into Reynolds Channel north of Long Beach. (Nov. 2, 2012) Credit: Doug Kuntz

Nassau County's aged and dysfunctional sewer and water treatment system needs a ton of work, and the sooner the better. That means Democrats in the county legislature need to approve necessary borrowing, but can demand a clean bidding process in return.

The total cost is expected to reach $722 million. Some problems were caused by superstorm Sandy, but even more were simply exposed by the storm, which shut down the Bay Park treatment plant for two days and left it partially operational for 44. The entire system, and especially Bay Park, which serves 40 percent of Nassau residents, have long been neglected. Luckily, much of the cost for Nassau's long-running sewer-treatment problem, hopefully 90 percent, will likely be picked up the federal government. But even if it isn't, the improvements and repairs are needed. Bay Park, for example, is still operating on generators at a cost of $700,000 a month. The cost alone of replacing and elevating that plant's electrical system will be about $325 million, but the work is absolutely necessary.

Also necessary: minimizing the politicking around funding the work while making sure no money is wasted. Earlier this month, the legislature gave County Executive Edward Mangano approval to borrow $262 million, but not the full $722 million. Democrats say they're put off by the numerous investigations that have sprung up around contractors doing no-bid work after Sandy, and their subsequent political contributions. They want a new bipartisan committee of three Democrats and three Republicans to approve all contracts. But that would create more opportunity for squabbling and deadlocks.

What's needed is an honest, transparent bidding process, and oversight by the state and federal government. Otherwise, we won't get the most funding possible, and taxpayers will be left with even more debt. A trustworthy process is needed. A new layer of bureaucracy is not.