The Federal Emergency Management Agency approved $730 million in funds to repair and mitigate the Bay Park Wastewater Treatment Plant in East Rockaway, the largest award for a post-Hurricane Sandy-related infrastructure project, Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced Saturday.
FEMA has committed at least $657 million in funding and Cuomo has committed to use at least $73 million in federal community development block grant funds to cover the remainder, Cuomo said.
“This will be the largest Sandy infrastructure award and a major victory for the more than 550,000 residents of Nassau County who depend on this critical piece of infrastructure every day,” Cuomo said in a statement.
The project includes:
Building a large dike around the entire plant to provide protection against the 500-year storm and account for anticipated sea level rise (click here for an image of the proposed dike);
Elevating and hardening the Electrical Plant Distribution System and repairing existing generators to take the plant off of temporary power;
Elevating and/or hardening as many as 57 pump stations that serve one million residents to protect from floods;
Building a larger sewage collection line to accommodate increased flow levels during storm surges;
Hardening and replacing the sludge dewatering equipment and building damaged during Sandy.
The Bay Park Wastewater Treatment Plant is the largest wastewater treatment facility in Nassau County, treating 58 million gallons each day, and serves more than 550,000 residents which represent 40 percent of the population in Nassau, according to the state. The facility was the largest damaged wastewater treatment plant on Long Island.
During Hurricane Sandy in Oct 2012, engines for the plant’s main pumping system were flooded by 9 feet of water, and sewage began to back up and overflow into low-lying homes and even burst through the street in a neighborhood. The plant shut down for more than 50 hours, and about 200 million gallons of raw sewage flowed into channels and waterways, including Reynolds Channel at the north end of Long Beach. The flooding destroyed the plant’s electrical system and compromised many other critical systems.
Last November, the Nassau County legislature approved County Executive Ed Mangano’s plan to obtain a $455 million, no-interest loan from the state to rebuild the plant, but officials would rather use the FEMA grants rather than secure the loan, according to Newsday.
U.S. Sen. Charles Schumer said new rules allow municipalities to obtain money upfront, as long as projects meet aid criteria, rather than obtain loans and then seek FEMA reimbursement. Said Schumer — who with Mangano will meet with FEMA officials in Washington on Wednesday to discuss further aid — about municipalities such as Nassau County:
"They often don't have the money. They have to bond for it. They spend the wrong amounts. Getting the money upfront is a huge, huge benefit. Construction will be quicker and they won't be hassled about reimbursements."