Nassau County officials took nearly 100 residents on a tour Tuesday of the embattled Bay Park Sewage Treatment Plant to explain why such a stench is emanating from temporary post-Superstorm Sandy repairs.
Officials said they’ve gotten a head start on their plans for a $1.2 billion project to upgrade the plant and harden it against for future storms—nearly half of which would fund extending the outflow pipe from Reynolds Channel into the Atlantic Ocean. But a completion date won’t be clear until New York State and federal funds start flowing.
“Clearly, the Bay Park Sewage Treatment Plant has not been a good neighbor,” County Executive Ed Mangano told reporters and residents during a news conference at the facility. “Although operating, it is fragile.”
The apology tour came less than a week after the plant spilled 3 million gallons of partially treated sewage into the waterway—a spill the county blamed on a power outage at the plant—and two weeks after an environmental watchdog ranked Bay Park’s more than 2 billion gallons of Sandy spill the worst in New York State.
Parts of the Bay Park facility had been flooded with more than 9 feet of saltwater in the storm surge. The plant is still running on backup generators more than six months after its four engines were knocked out in the Oct. 29 storm. Temporary digester tanks that have been contributing to worse-than-usual smells in the area are scheduled to be moved.
“I’m hearing a lot of crap,” said Cynthia O’Rourke, a makeup artist and mother of two who took the tour with her 2-year-old daughter to find out why they still can’t return home since her family’s Oceanside home was flooded with sewage in Sandy. “Nobody’s taking responsibility for 20 years of mismanagement.”
The rickety state of Bay Park and its sister plant, Cedar Creek, had been the subject of a Press investigative series. The county later committed millions to repair the plant before Sandy hit and knocked it offline for more than a month, causing pipes to burst and sewage to flood some homes before pressure could be released on the plant.
Adrienne Esposito, executive director of Citizens Campaign for the Environment, called on Gov. Andrew Cuomo to help get Nassau its sewage plant repair funds.
“This is a basic human necessity; this is not a luxury item,” she said. “Societies have lived and died based on their sewage systems.”
Assemb. Harvey Weisenberg (D-Long Beach) echoed concerns that the sewage spills into Reynolds Channel impacts fishing, swimming, the air and groundwater.
“There was no containing anything that was coming out of here,” he said of the Bay Park’s failure during Sandy. “This is an emergency situation that has to be addressed.”