By Alyssa Seidman
After securing over $7 million to complete its long-awaited sewer line project, the Village of Sea Cliff is preparing plans to connect existing infrastructure to a new gravity sewer line at the intersection of Sea Cliff and Prospect avenues, which will pump sewage to the county’s wastewater treatment plant in Glen Cove.
The project is currently in the design stage. Nassau County bonds account for $4 million of the funding, and the remaining $3 million has come from state grants.
The new infrastructure will begin at an inactive sewer line that ends at the intersection of Sea Cliff and Prospect. It will run east on Prospect to Carpenter Avenue, and connect to an active sewer line at Shore Road in Glen Cove, which runs to the treatment plant.
“Installing this sewer line will not only bring Sea Cliff’s commercial district onto the sewer system,” said Nassau County Legislator Delia DeRiggi-Whitton, a Democrat from Glen Cove, “it also stands to reduce environmental impacts on the Long Island Sound, and set the stage for transitioning more residents off of cesspools in future expansions.”
In 2015, the village installed a sewer line that extends down Sea Cliff Avenue, starting at Main Avenue and dead-ending at Prospect. The line was the first phase of a plan to improve Sea Cliff’s water quality, while preserving the nearby waterfront. Village Administrator Bruce Kennedy, who was mayor at the time, called the addition of the new gravity sewer line Phase Two.
“Ninety-eight percent of the village runs on septic systems and cesspools, and those are old brick pools that were built by hand many years ago,” Kennedy explained. “Eventually they fail.”
“As opposed to connecting toilets to a hole in the ground,” he added, “the sewage will be pumped to a facility where it is going to be treated and purified.”
Village officials and residents have been discussing converting Sea Cliff to a more sanitary sewer system since the 1940s, Kennedy said. Current Mayor Edward Lieberman said that a lack of federal grant money kept the village behind the curve.
There have been numerous attempts over the past 15 to 20 years to obtain proper funding for what Lieberman described as a “monumental public works project.” He said, “I’m proud to see that after all these years of discussion, planning and grant writing, that the sewer line will be hooked up and activated.”
The project will allow for the elimination of more than 160 aging cesspools, and help prevent harmful substances like nitrogen, phosphorous, zinc and suspended solids from flowing into the water table as well as nearby bodies of water, like Hempstead Harbor and the Long Island Sound.
“So much of the beach closures occur because of high bacteria levels after rainfalls,” Kennedy said. “That bacteria comes from cesspools.”
Along with the many homes that will be added to the active sewer line, the majority of the village’s downtown businesses, as well as Village Hall and the firehouse, will also benefit from the improvements.
Some businesses that are built property line to property line have cesspools in the basement, Kennedy said, which is unlawful. In many cases, these businesses had to get special permission from the village to put their cesspools out on public property, which Kennedy called “problematic.”
Additionally, the number of seats a restaurant can have is determined by the Board of Health, and that determination is based on the facility’s septic capacity, which, in Sea Cliff, is limited.
“The sewer system will allow business to grow without worry of a failing septic system,” DeRiggi-Whitton said, adding that some business owners on Sea Cliff Avenue empty their septic systems every 10 days. “This takes away any of the concern.”
Kennedy added, “This will be a real economic benefit to property owners, taxpayers and the [village] government.”
As more funding becomes available, the goal will be to design the line to enable connections at every intersection on Prospect Avenue, so the entire village can be properly connected. Kennedy said that the project would occur in “spurts” (see box).
With the initial $7 million approved, the county is now drawing up an intermunicipal agreement with the village to transfer the money and approve the plans, and once it is signed, the project will be put out to bid. Kennedy said that construction on the sewer line would most likely be completed before next summer.