Nassau County is planning to spend an estimated $2 billion to fix and upgrade the Bay Park Sewage Treatment Plant (STP). This $2 billion price tag includes $690 million to build a new ocean outfall pipe and relocate the plant’s discharge from Reynold’s Channel in the Western Bays to the Atlantic Ocean off of Long Beach, NY. Moving the outfall to the ocean, without due consideration of other possibilities, is a missed opportunity to protect Nassau County’s water supply and may just transfer the problem elsewhere.
Flaws with traditional wastewater management & possibilities to do better
The fundamental problem with all traditional wastewater discharges from sewage treatment plants is the incredible waste of freshwater. Millions of dollars are spent every year to make the water leaving a single sewage treatment plant clean, and then we literally throw it away. This incredible waste of treated fresh water is further explained in the short animated film The Cycle of Insanity seen here.
The pollution in Reynolds Channel is just one problem facing Nassau County. An ocean outfall pipe only moves that problem somewhere else where people can’t see it. An ocean outfall, and the money spent building it, may be unnecessary if the County upgrades treatment at the plant to allow beneficial reuse options for the plant’s effluent. The County should do their due diligence and fully investigate all possibilities to put this valuable freshwater source to good use.
There is no such thing as wastewater, only wasted water. Here are several examples of where an outfall pipe was either avoided or removed by recycling what was once considered wastewater for a beneficial reuse Water Recycling – 6 Stories.
Other water resource problems in Nassau County, NY
In addition to the Bay Park and Long Beach sewage treatment plants polluting the greater Reynolds Channel area, there are other problems that Nassau County faces regarding water. Nassau County’s relies solely on three underground aquifers for their drinking water supply. (Insert photo/diagram of the aquifers)
The Upper Glacial Aquifer is closest to the surface. It has already been contaminated and is not used as a source of drinking water anymore. The Magothy is the next deepest and largest, and supplies most of Long Island’s fresh water. Its deepest part is 1100 feet deep. Deeper yet is the Lloyd aquifer with a maximum depth of 1800 feet. Water in the Lloyd took 6000 years to get there, and there is a NY State law against further tapping into the Lloyd to save it for future generations.
Long Beach is an exception to this law. Long Beach taps into the Lloyd for their drinking water because saltwater intrusion has rendered the Magothy aquifer below Long Beach undrinkable. Saltwater Intrusion occurs when salty ocean water seeps into the edges of underground aquifers as freshwater is pumped out quicker than the aquifers can recharge.
Saltwater intrusion into the Long Island Magothy aquifer is not limited to Long Beach, but is becoming a growing concern in several locations. There are documented cases of saltwater intrusion in Great Neck and Manhasset Neck, but the full extent is unknown. http://www.newsday.com/news/health/rising-saltwater-levels-in-li-water-supply-1.3751683
Another water management problem in Nassau County is that there are 42 different water authorities with responsibility only for their particular wells, unlike in neighboring Suffolk County where one agency has responsibility for delivering drinking water to the entire county. This segmentation of responsibility has allowed 42 different water managers to simply think about getting enough water to their customers, or ratepayers, at the very best price. They are not applying the concepts of integrated water management which would take a holistic approach and consider water supply, demand, and management of waste for the better of the entire region. There is no doubt that the shared authority of 42 different water mangers has lead to the aquifer contamination and saltwater intrusion.
The Central Long Island Chapter understands that finding a beneficial re-use for 58 million gallons a day (mgd) of nearly clean (once treatment is upgraded) discharge from the Bay Park plant in the densely populated, mostly residential Nassau County will not be easy. There is very little agriculture or heavy industry in Nassau. The main users of water are the people of Nassau County. There are a few notable big users like Belmont Race Track, the hospitals and universities of the area they would likely not be able to handle 58 mgd or even 20 or 10 mgd of rather clean, treated water.
The most likely beneficial reuse of treated water from the Bay Park plant might be to be to inject it back into the ground replenish and protect the aquifers from saltwater intrusion. Theoretically the water that will be coming out of Bay Park will be fully treated, almost to drinking water standards; essentially clean water with a few nutrients in it.
But regardless of what exactly the treated freshwater is used for, the Chapter would like Nassau County to fully explore all the possibilities of recycling and reusing the effluent from the Bay Park plant before deciding on building an ocean outfall discharge pipe that might not be necessary and could just end up shifting the pollution problem somewhere else.