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Source: Merrick Patch

Residents Demand Fix to Bay Park Treatment Plant Plume

Commissioners found “a lot of neglect” at sewage facility.


Posted: December 8, 2010
Originally Published: December 7, 2010

Public Works Commissioner Shah-Ganordia (far r) along with deputy commissioners Arnold (mid) and Millet (l) discuss their findings on the Bay Park plant with the Legislature.Credit Geoffrey Walter

A number of Nassau County residents demanded answers Monday at the regular meeting of the Nassau Legislature over the Bay Park sewage treatment plant, which has been at the center of local residents' ire due to a brown plume made up of waste solids being illegally dumped into Reynolds Channel.

Adrienne Esposito, executive director of Citizens Campaign for the Environment, said that the facility is "in grave need of upgrades and attention" as an additional release of treated sludge into Western bays in recent months. The facility is responsible for handling 43 percent of Nassau's sewage and is considered to be dangerously over capacity.

According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), treated sludge contains 27 different heavy metals, nitrates and nitrites, volatile organics, prescription drugs, flame retardants, barium, beryllium and silver and other chemicals. "Treated sludge doesn't mean safe sludge," Esposito said. "It's still contamination." She added that if sludge was going into land instead of water, it would not be tolerated.

U.S. Sen. Charles Schumer, D-NY, is reportedly trying to obtain between $10 and $20 million for Nassau to clean up the site. Esposito implored the Legislature to use the funds for upgrades and a discharge pipe into the ocean and not conduct another study.

"This is the only sewage treatment plant on Long Island of this magnitude that discharges into an abayment like this," she said. Cedar Creek in Seaford and Bergen Point in Suffolk both discharge into the ocean.

"These are not issues that just creep up out of nowhere," said Kristen Ochtera, who represents the Green Bay Parkers, a community group of residents who live near the Bay Park plant. "It is vitally important that the Legislature structure some kind of oversight or some kind of accountability so that issues like this never happen again so that we don't ever have to ask you for 3 years to take a closer look at Bay Park and then a closer look finally comes when brown plumes of sludge are being dropped into Reynolds Channel."

Three years ago the Legislature voted in favor of consolidating the treatment plants at Lawrence and Cedarhurst, a move Legis. Denise Ford, R-Long Beach, said she regretted.

"It was based on information that was given to me that made me believe that Bay Park would be able to take the extra sewage from both Lawrence and Cedarhurst," Ford said. "It's very distressful to find out that the information was incorrect." Plans at the time also called for the Bay Park facility to take sewage from Long Beach.

Philip Franco, who represents the Cedar Creek Health Risk Assessment Committee of the Wantagh Seaford Homeowners Association, wanted to commend the administration for the "excellent, fabulous job" being done at the Cedar Creek facility.

Franco said that out of 20,000 hours of scheduled maintenance in the previous administration, only a few hundred were done. "That's why these plants are in such bad shape and disrepair," he said, describing some of the work currently being undertaken including changing flame arrestors to prevent methane leaks as well as changing valves on digesters. The County estimates that the facility will be state-of-the art in approximately 5 years.

Nassau Commissioner of Public Works Shila Shah-Ganordia informed the Legislature that "what we've found in Bay Park is seriously a lot of neglect, a lot of disrepair, a lot of lack of maintenance." Along with deputy commissioners Richard Millet and Kenneth Arnold, Shah said "we were appalled to see the state of disrepair at Bay Park"

There had been a "tremendous" lack of supervision at the facility and the commissioners could not promote from in-house since no employee had the appropriate qualifications to supervise the facility. The commissioners hired Phil Saglimbebe II of the engineering firm of Dvirka & Bartilucci as supervisor of operations. Saglimbebe was once head of a plant five times the size of Bay Park. Shah also reported that the County has begun the training workers reportedly had been waiting for and brought in personnel from Cedar Creek to assist with maintenance and repair.

According to Millet, then the team first arrived, only two of the primary and final digestive tanks out of 10 were operational. That number has since increased to nine. The facility has also installed emergency gravity-belt thickeners (GBTs) which filter solid particulates out of the waste to address and stop the brown plume.

Shah said one GBT arrived this week and will be installed. The design of an interim/ permanent GBT will be available in January according to Millet and construction of a new full GBT building will start and be completed by the end of 2011 replacing the temporary with the interim GBT. Millet added that GBTs were never before used at the Bay Park facility.

Legis. Francis X. Becker, R-Lynbrook requested that the Legislature be given updates every six months on the maintenance being done at the plant.

"I for one would like to know what the heck is going on myself, I'd like to have an understanding of the progress that's been made," he said.

Legis. Dave Denenberg, D-Merrick, requested monthly updates on the sewer and capital plans "as well as the environmental bond act projects."

To alleviate the pressure on Bay Park, some sludge is being hauled to the Cedar Creek facility. Millet said approximately 46,000 gallons per day are being moved by tanker truck and fed into the plant off of Merrick Road by the Waldbaums near the Meadowbrook Parkway.

When asked, Millet said a coagulant cannot be used in the facility because "too much of the equipment's broken" and "you'll overload the rest and the rest will break." A coagulant is added at the end of the tank process.