Empowering Communities, Advocating Solutions


Source: LI Herald

'Today's the day to save the bay!'

Ralliers gather in support of Bay Park sewage outfall pipe


Posted: January 22, 2015
Originally Published: January 22, 2015

Adrienne Esposito and the rally panel.

Rally coordinator Adrienne Esposito, left, with some members of her panel at the event on Monday. To her left were Operation SPLASH President Rob Weltner, Long Island Federation of Labor Executive Director Roger Clayman and County Legislators Denise Ford and Laura Curran.

With chants of “Today’s the day to save the bay!” dozens of concerned citizens filled the headquarters of the environmental group Operation SPLASH’s on Freeport’s Nautical Mile on Monday morning — just days before the New York state budget was expected to be released — to call on Gov. Andrew Cuomo to direct $500 million of surplus funds to the construction of a Bay Park Sewage Treatment Plant ocean outfall pipe.

“We can have a legacy in our lifetime of clean bays and healthy living,” said Adrienne Esposito, executive director of the Citizens Campaign for the Environment and the coordinator of the event. “Our dream is to have our maritime culture back … We want the fish to come back to the Western Bays. How crazy is it that we’re asking for clean water? How crazy is that we dump 50 million gallons of treated sewage into the bay and then we ignore it? And how crazy is it that there’s a fix?” She added that the sewage plant has come a long way — but now the governor has a chance to fund an outfall pipe.

Along with Esposito, a panel of other environmentalists, civic and labor group representatives and state, county and local officials spoke to the ralliers.

“The water and marine life are in such poor shape,” said State Assemblyman Todd Kaminsky, whose district includes Atlantic Beach, Long Beach, Lido Beach, Island Park, Oceanside and the Five Towns. “It’s more than a pity. We have the opportunity to turn this around, and we should seize this opportunity to create a better landscape for our children.”

Kaminsky vowed to fight hard for the pipe. “Come on, Governor Cuomo,” he said, “let’s get it done.”

Rob Weltner, president of Operation SPLASH (Stop Polluting, Littering and Save Harbors), said he prayed that the project “will bring back hundreds and thousands of people that love our beaches and bays, and the wildlife that used to call the Western Bays their home.”

Roger Clayman, executive director of the Long Island Federation of Labor, also sat on the panel. “We’re the ones who supply the workforce to get this done,” he said. “This is about jobs and the quality of life for our residents … We know that taking care of our infrastructure — our shores, roads, bridges — will keep our workforce employed. We rely on this funding. Every level of government plays a role … and we’re here to ask the governor what he can do on his level.”

The plant, the pipe, the environment

The Bay Park Sewage Plant, built in 1949, treats approximately 50 million gallons of sewage per day — 60 percent of Nassau County’s sewage — and the treated effluent is released into Reynolds Channel. The facility was out of service for two days after Hurricane Sandy, having been hit with a 9-foot tidal surge, and roughly 100 million gallons of untreated sewage flowed into Hewlett Bay and Reynolds Channel. Another 2.2 billion gallons of partially treated sewage was released during the 44 days it took to fully restore operations. The discharge from Bay Park was the second worst in the Northeast caused by Sandy –– and the worst in New York.

The proposed outfall pipe would send the wastewater three miles out into the Atlantic, reducing nitrogen levels in the Western Bays and helping the waterways recover while allowing wildlife and industry to return. When the pipe was first proposed a decade ago, the cost was $100 million. It’s now five times that amount.

Last year, the Environmental Protection Agency and the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation declared vast areas of water along the South Shore and around Long Island “impaired,” citing elevated levels of microorganisms, reduced oxygen and increased nitrogen loading from contaminated runoff. Excess nitrogen in surface water was allowing algae to grow unchecked, depleting the water of oxygen and killing off marine life. The construction of an ocean outfall pipe, the agencies agreed, would mitigate the harmful effects of the rising nitrogen levels.

The pipe project was not eligible for public assistance funding from the Federal Emergency Management Agency because the pipe did not exist when Sandy hit in October 2012. The plan also involves the conversion of the Long Beach sewage treatment plant into a pump station.

On life support

Scott Bochner, a lifelong Long Beach resident and a cofounder of the Sludge Stoppers Task Force, said he just wants to see life return to the bays. “I can remember swimming in Reynolds Channel,” he said, “ … but we lost life, we’re on life support … It’s been killing everything that’s been living in there for the last 40 years. This is not a pie-in-the-sky idea. We went through the studies, which show us that the channel is being destroyed by the sewage treatment plant. Scientific data showed that it’s like a toilet bowl — [the treated sewage] isn’t moving; it just stays in the bay and sloshes around. If we get the pipe, it will be monitored to make sure that this doesn’t happen to our ocean. Let’s get the bay back to the way it was put here on God’s green earth.”

County Legislator Denise Ford said that residents of East Rockaway and Island Park should no longer have to see their beaches closed because of high nitrogen levels. “We have a right to those beaches,” she said, “and to be able to have economy-driven jobs in the industry, whether it be fishing or clamming.”

Diana Harrison, a lifelong East Rockaway resident and a member of a community group known as the11518, attended the rally. “The ocean outfall pipe from the Bay Park plant is the last part of the puzzle needed to upgrade the plant and bring it into the 21st century,” she said. “It took Superstorm Sandy to make everyone wake up and see that the plant needed to be fixed — but without the outfall pipe, the water won’t recover, and that makes all the rebuilding going on almost pointless.”

Harrison added that she hopes Cuomo does the right thing and directs the funding to build the pipe, “to save our bays, our waterways, and ultimately our communities along the western South Shore of Nassau.”

“This isn’t a luxury item, it’s a necessity,” Esposito concluded. “We’re asking because we know the science, and we understand the societal impact, and we know that it’s always going to be needed.”