The state awarded Long Beach an additional $2.5 million last week to help convert its wastewater treatment facility into a pumping station that would stop the flow of waste into Reynolds Channel.
The funding is earmarked for the design and construction of a pipeline under Reynolds Channel as part of a project to convert the city’s wastewater treatment plant into a pumping station that would send wastewater to the Bay Park Water Reclamation Facility.
“The wastewater consolidation project between Long Beach and Bay Park protects critical infrastructure and improves local water quality in Reynold’s Channel as well,” City Council President Anthony Eramo said in a statement. “The funding we are receiving is helping us take another important step in rebuilding a stronger, smarter, safer Long Beach.”
The funding is part of the state’s Regional Economic Development Council initiative, announced by Gov. Andrew Cuomo in December. Long Beach was initially awarded a $4.5 million grant under the New York State Water Infrastructure Improvement Act, the largest such grant awarded in the state, to be used for the first phase of the project — construction of the pipeline — that is estimated to cost $18 million.
City officials have said that the 70-year-old plant is obsolete and has struggled for years to meet Department of Environmental Conservation standards. They also said they struggled to maintain the aging facility while keeping taxes low. Additionally, the current plant is a potential pollution risk during severe storms. The system had overflowed into businesses during Hurricane Sandy.
“The whole idea behind this is, as more stringent regulations come out, it’s harder for smaller plants to meet those requirements — and it’s much more expensive,” John Mirando, the commissioner of the city’s Department of Public Works, told the Herald. “By us shutting down our wastewater plant and having the raw wastewater flow to Bay Park, they can treat it more efficiently than we can.”
Diverting the city’s sewage to Bay Park would cost about $50 million, but would save taxpayers $128 million as part of a shared-services agreement with the county, and reduce pollution in the bays, officials have said.
“We need to connect Long Beach,” said Long Beach resident Scott Bochner, a local environmentalist, co-founder of the Sludge Stoppers Task Force and member of the city’s Environmental Advisory Board. “It’s important because the Long Beach plant is an old plant — it can’t remove the nitrogen or the ammonia or [other pollutants] we need out of that, so you need to upgrade that plant just to meet [Department of Environmental Conservation] approval for what could go into the channel now.”
The pipe under Reynolds Channel would connect to Bay Park, where sewage could be treated, and, from there, the treated sewage would be sent to the Cedar Creek Wastewater Treatment Plant in Wantagh via an aqueduct under Sunrise Highway and pumped into the Atlantic Ocean via an outfall pipe, a $350 million project that state and county officials said they are committed to moving forward (see front page story).
According to the state, the funding announced last year for Long Beach would facilitate the flow-diversion project, or a multi-year, inter-municipal upgrade to the city’s plant that would consolidate treatment resources, reduce nitrogen levels in the bays and remove pollutants, which would improve local water quality. The treated wastewater would dissipate in the ocean and be diluted there.
“We look forward to building a future in which Reynolds Channel becomes a model of resiliency and sustainability for future generations of Long Beach and South Shore residents,” Council Vice President Chumi Diamond said in a statement.
Mirando said that the goal is to complete the project using state and federal funds within seven years. He added that the city applied for three grants to help fund the project, including a $6.5 million request that was recently rejected by the state. Mirando said that the city and county are working together on a new grant application for the funding, to be submitted in June. With a new county executive, Laura Curran, and administration, Mirando added that he is optimistic the funding will be approved.
“There were a lot of questions that remained unanswered because the [previous Republican administration under County Executive Ed Mangano] could not come to an agreement,” Mirando said. “It was a lame duck administration.”
Last year, the Nassau County Department of Public Works received $2 million from the state to plan, design and construct sewer infrastructure in Point Lookout that would connect to the Long Beach plant.
“The other important thing is eventually, the Town of Hempstead will want a sewer in Point Lookout, and this will give them a way to pump their waste without having to discharge it into the channel,” Mirando said.