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Schumer Announces Major Effort to Secure $600m to Construct Vitally-Needed ‘Sewage Outflow Pipe’ For Bay Park Treatment Plant

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Outflow Pipe Would Remove Waste From Local Waterways – Would Be Paid For With Funds From Hurricane Sandy Relief Bill .

Nassau County, NY - January 16, 2014 - U.S. Senator Charles E. Schumer today announced that he was launching a major push to secure approximately $600 million in federal funds for Nassau county to construct a critically needed “outflow pipe” for the Bay Park sewage treatment plant. In the wake of Hurricane Sandy, the plant was crippled, leading to a massive flow of sewage into Reynolds Channel and other Nassau county waterways, the effects of which are still being felt.  The outflow pipe would allow the county to avoid this environmental disaster in the future. 

The waterways still have massively elevated levels of sewage and nitrogen, making swimming or boating dangerous or prohibited.  These funds, which Schumer is seeking from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), will solve a problem that the county has been trying to solve for a decade, but has been unable to due to lack of funds.  HUD is about to begin reviewing spending plans for billions of Sandy relief funds, making this a perfect time to make this push.
 
“We watched in horror while an environmental disaster unfolded in the wake of Sandy, with sewage from the crippled Bay Park plant flowing back into homes and local waterways,” said Schumer.  “This outflow pipe, which Nassau has been seeking for decades, would prevent another environmental disaster from unfolding, and is the perfect use of mitigation money that Congress secured in the Sandy Relief bill early last year.”
 
“This project may be the single most important thing we can do to protect homeowners and the environment,” said Ed Mangano, Nassau County Executive. “It is a prime candidate for the money Senator Schumer fought so hard for in the relief bill, and we deeply appreciate that he is leading the charge in getting the county funds we need so badly. We all remember the sewage crisis we had in the wake of Sandy and we need to avoid that again at all costs.”
 
“We are extremely supportive of Senator Schumer’s effort to secure $600M to provide critical improvements to the wastewater infrastructure here and at Bay Park, thereby improving the water quality in Reynolds Channel,” said Long Beach City Council President Scott J. Mandel. “This will truly be a game changer for the south shore. We are excited to work with Senator Schumer and Nassau County to see this project move forward.”
 
Schumer is seeking funds from the $62 billion Sandy Relief bill passed by Congress, which provided two critical funding streams to support this effort: the EPA’s Clean Water program and HUD’s Community Development grant program.  In total, the programs received billions of dollars for long-term wastewater infrastructure resiliency.  Specifically, the bill provided:
  • Clean water grant funding and low-interest financing through EPA Region 2’s $340 million allocation for the Clean Water State Revolving Fund  (CWSRF)
  • Mitigation grant funding through HUD’s $16 billion community development block program (CDBG)
The Bay Park STP is one of the largest and most difficult undertakings in the efforts to rebuild after Superstorm Sandy. It is also one of the most critical, with tremendous impact on the public health of over 500,000 residents in Nassau County, making the necessary investments in reconstruction and mitigation measures a basic human necessity for this community.
 
During Sandy, the plant was knocked offline for two days after 9 feet of saltwater entered the facility.  Thousands have had to endure the noxious after-effects of its destruction while the plant released some 65 million gallons a day of partially-treated sludge into Reynolds channel, which flows into the Atlantic Ocean. In the 44 hours the Bay Park STP was out of service, it dumped 100 million gallons of untreated sewage into Hewlett Bay. In the 44 days it took to restore operations fully at the plant, another 2.2 billion gallons of partially-treated sewage flowed through the plant. The plant since then has continued to suffer setbacks, including electrical failures due to the lingering effects from saltwater corrosion.
 
The environmental degradation to the Reynolds Channel and Western Bays caused by pollution from the damaged Bay Park STP is alarming, particularly with regard to nitrogen loading from treated water being discharged into Reynolds Channel. The EPA and the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation have declared vast swaths of water on the South Shore and Long Island “impaired”, citing elevated levels of microorganisms, reduced oxygen and increased nitrogen loading from contaminated runoff. Excess nitrogen in surface water allows algae to grow unchecked, depleting waters of oxygen and killing off marine life. Polluted waters mean less fishing and recreational boating, closed beaches and fewer tourism generated dollars in a region with an economy dependent on those industries. The construction of an ocean outfall pipe would have a considerable impact mitigating the harmful effects of the growing threat rising nitrogen levels present to Long Island waters. The federal government has an opportunity to make this project an exemplary model of how government can be innovative and prudent with the finite amount of funding available after a catastrophic natural disaster to protect the environment and thousands of impacted families.
 
A full copy of Schumer’s letter is below:
Dear Secretary Donovan, Administrator Fugate, and Regional Administrator Enck,
 
I write to follow-up on our correspondence from June of last year regarding critical improvements to the Bay Park Sewage Treatment Plant (STP) in Nassau County, New York.  As you know, the Bay Park STP, which serves a majority of the residents of Nassau County, was badly damaged during Hurricane Sandy.  Over the past year, the County has worked diligently with your agencies to implement temporary fixes to mitigate further environmental harm in the Western Bays due to effluent discharge and begin the process of seeking long-term reimbursement and funding for repairs and mitigation to the facility. While progress has been made on a final FEMA aid package for the basic restoration of the plant, I write to urge that your agencies work together to develop the critical second phase of the new Bay Park STP, a comprehensive package that combines funding and financing for the construction of a new outfall pipe to the Atlantic Ocean with maximum nitrogen removal, which is essential to protecting the environment and improving the resiliency of the existing facility.
 
As you know, the Sandy Relief bill (P.L. 113-2) provided two critical funding streams to support this effort.  EPA’s Clean Water program and HUD’s Community Development grant program, in total, received billions of dollars for long-term wastewater infrastructure resiliency.  Specifically, the bill provided:
  • Clean water grant funding and low interest financing through EPA Region 2’s $340 million allocation for the Clean Water State Revolving Fund  (CWSRF)
  • Mitigation grant funding through HUD’s $16 billion community development block program (CDBG)
At my request, regional officials from EPA and HUD are meeting next week in New York City at EPA’s regional offices to discuss this comprehensive approach to funding the Bay Park STP outfall pipe.  I would urge you to personally follow-up with your regional staffs after this meeting to determine the progress made on this plan.
 
HUD has also issued guidance for the $2.1 billion package of “second tranche” CDBG funding for New York.  In HUD’s guidance, the agency put a particular emphasis on building green, resilient infrastructure projects that are consistent with the goals outlined in President Obama’s Hurricane Sandy Task Force.  HUD also required that infrastructure projects over $50 million be approved in the CDBG “Action Plan” before it can be released to local governments.  The current estimated cost of the ocean outfall pipe is approximately $600 million and therefore I would urge you not to approve any major infrastructure Action Plan amendment that does not provide a robust amount of grant funding for the Bay Park STP ocean outfall pipe.
 
The Bay Park STP is one of the largest and most difficult undertakings in the efforts to rebuild after Superstorm Sandy. It is also one of the most critical, with tremendous impact on the public health of over 500,000 residents in Nassau County. Making the necessary investments in reconstruction and mitigation measures are a basic human necessity for this community. During Sandy, the plant was knocked offline for two days after 9 feet of saltwater entered the facility.  Thousands have had to endure the noxious after effects of its destruction while the plant released some 65 million gallons a day of partially treated sludge into Reynolds channel, which flows into the Atlantic Ocean. In the 44 hours  the Bay Park STP was out of service, it dumped 100 million gallons of untreated sewage into Hewlett Bay. In the 44 days it took to restore operations fully at the plant, another 2.2 billion gallons of partially treated sewage flowed through the plant. The plant since then has continued to suffer setbacks, including electrical failures due to the lingering effects from saltwater corrosion.
 
The environmental degradation to the Reynolds Channel and Western Bays caused by pollution from the damaged Bay Park STP is alarming, particularly with regard to nitrogen loading from treated water being discharged into Reynolds Channel. The EPA and the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation have declared vast swaths of water on the South Shore and Long Island “impaired”, citing elevated levels of microorganisms, reduced oxygen and increased nitrogen loading from contaminated runoff. Excess nitrogen in surface water allows algae to grow unchecked, depleting waters of oxygen and killing off marine life. Polluted waters mean less fishing and recreational boating, closed beaches and fewer tourism-generated dollars in a region with an economy dependent on those industries. The construction of an ocean outfall pipe would have a considerable impact mitigating the harmful effects of the growing threat rising nitrogen levels present to Long Island waters. The federal government has an opportunity to make this project an exemplary model of how government can be innovative and prudent with the finite amount of funding available after a catastrophic natural disaster to protect the environment and thousands of impacted families. I urge you to work together to move expediently in providing Nassau County the resources they need to repair, rebuild, and protect the Bay Park STP.
 
Thank you for your attention to this matter, I look forward to continue working with you. Should you have any questions, please do not hesitate to contact me or my staff.
 
Sincerely,
U.S. Senator Charles E. Schumer
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