After decades of neglect, a video posted by a Surfrider Foundation member of brown, sewage sludge being discharged into Reynold’s Channel finally got the Nassau County Executive’s attention to take action to fix the malfunctioning Bay Park Sewage Treatment Plant.

While these initial measures did succeed in improving conditions at the plant and the quality of the effluent, the County was never fully able to finish their overhaul of the facility, and unfortunately the local waterways continued to suffer from the environmental damage caused by the sewage discharge.

Studies have shown that the Channel and much of the Western Bays near the outflow pipe is severely impaired. A green algae called Ulva is flourishing at unprecedented levels due to the high nutrient levels coming from Bay Park and, to a lesser extent, the Long Beach sewage treatment plants. Heavy algae blooms severely impact local habitats, water quality, fisheries, and even pose a human health risk where they dominate the ecosystem.

People swim, raft, boat, windsurf, and waterski in Reynolds Channel in the warmer months. People fish in the area year-round.

Thinking that the community at least had the right to know when untreated sewage was going into the Channel, a coalition of environmental groups pressed the County for a “Right to Know” law whereby the county would at least inform the public when these discharges happened. A bill was drafted, but the County Executive’s office fought this at every turn, and the bill never went anywhere. Fortunately a NY State Right-to-Know law did pass in 2012.

When Hurricane Sandy hit in October, 2012 the Bay Park plant was flooded with 9 feet of water and completely stopped functioning. Billions of gallons of untreated sewage flowed into the Channel during the weeks following the storm.

Work is already underway to nearly rebuild the entire facility on-site. Nassau County also plans to upgrade treatment at Bay Park and relocate their discharge to the Atlantic Ocean by building a new ocean outfall pipe off of Long Beach. The price tag for this multi-tiered project is $2 billion, with $690 million estimated to build the outfall pipe. Nassau County has already had success securing funds for the plant repairs. Funding for the plant upgrades and pipe are not yet certain.

The Central Long Island Chapter welcomes and supports all efforts to fix and upgrade the Bay Park STP. It supports all efforts to drastically reduce or eliminate the pollution going into Reynolds Channel and the Western Bays. The Chapter does not, however, think that the only viable options to choose between are to continue discharging into the Channel or to send the entire flow into the ocean.