Save Our Western Bays
A Cleaner Bay
A Cleaner Ocean
The Case for an Ocean Outfall
The Western Bays were once highly productive fishing and shell fishing grounds
containing the largest concentration of salt marshes in the South Shore Estuary Reserve.
These bays were historically a major economic asset supporting recreation, commercial
fisheries, real estate values, and tourism. Unfortunately, this once vibrant ecosystem has
been experiencing ongoing and accelerating degradation of water quality, excessive
Ulva (seaweed) growth, degraded salt marshes, hypoxia, and diminished shellfish
harvesting for over a decade. As a result, these waters were added to EPA’s 303(d)
impaired water bodies list in 2008.
Based on recent scientific studies, the evidence is clear: The Bay Park Sewage
Treatment Plant (STP) outfall pipe must be removed from Reynolds Channel and
relocated out into the Atlantic Ocean. An ocean outfall is necessary to save the Bays;
ensure cleaner ocean beaches; protect the public’s health; and preserve our quality of life. This is not only
the best option, it is the only option.
Recent Developments & Facts
The Bay Park sewage treatment plant (STP) services 42% of Nassau County (more than 500,000 people). Since
2008, over $1.64 million in state and federal money has been spent on studies documenting high levels of
ammonia, nitrate, and Ulva concentrated at or around the Bay Park outfall pipe located in the middle of
Reynolds Channel, and suffocating the Western Bays ecosystem. These studies disclosed that the Bay Park and
Long Beach sewage treatment plant outfalls contribute 94% (87.9% and 6.1% respectively) of the total dissolved
nitrogen into the immediate West Bay and 79.4% of the nitrogen to the entire western bays complex.
The studies proved unequivocally: The Bays are not just impaired, they are imperiled; and the location of
the Bay Park outfall and its ongoing inferior discharge is indeed the reason.
Similar projects have shown positive results:
Two successful nearby case studies
Mumford Cove, CT: In 1945, a sewage treatment plant was built to service a local Navy housing project,
which discharged into Mumford Cove, CT. By 1971, approximately 0.4 million gallons of treated
effluent was being discharged into this small and shallow cove each day. By 1985, the discharge had
increased to 3.5 million gallons a day, greatly increasing the total nitrogen content in the Cove as well. As
a result, by 1987, there was such an abundance of Ulva, the Cove had become devoid of seagrass (which
acts as a nursery for fish, clams, and other sea life) — quite similar to the conditions being witnessed in
the Western Bays today. In 1987, the plant’s discharge pipe was moved from the Cove to the Thames
River. In less than a year, the Cove’s Ulva content was reduced by 99%; and, within 10 years, the
seagrass had returned and, once again, become its dominant plant life!
Deer Island, MA: At a capacity of 1.27 Billion gallons per day, the Deer Island sewage treatment plant is
the second largest STP in the US. Prior to 2000 Boston’s sewage discharged into Boston Harbor which in
1988 was famously characterized as one of the most polluted waterbodies in the US. In 2000, the outfall
pipe was relocated offshore to Massachusetts Bay and upgrades were made to the treatment plant. There
is an extensive program in place to monitor the new outfall and surrounding waters to ensure the effluent
continues to meet requisite standards. The program indicates a complete and ongoing success — Boston
Harbor is cleaner, and Massachusetts Bay has not been negatively impacted by the outfall pipe.
This success is due to: improvements that were made to the plant itself, resulting in cleaner
effluent; and the relocation of its outfall pipe, resulting in better and more complete dilution of the
During Superstorm Sandy, nine and a
half feet of seawater flooded the Bay
Park STP — resulting in the entire plant
shutting down and approximately 2.2
billion gallons of raw and partially
treated sewage being discharged into the
Western Bays. Sewage backed up onto
streets, into homes, and defiled the bays,
creating health hazards, causing
millions of dollars in damages, and
threatening the ecosystem.
How Will advanced treatment combined with an Ocean
Outfall Benefit Long Islanders?
1. It Will Provide for a Cleaner Bay & Ocean Beaches.
Excessive nitrogen loading in the Western Bays is causing seaweed
so dense, it not only depletes precious oxygen from the waterways, it
stifles marine life at the bay bottom. In addition, when mass amounts
of seaweed strand along the bayside and ocean shorelines, it affects
human health, quality of life, and our local economy. Noxious
hydrogen sulfide gas, originating from Ulva decomposition, wafts
through communities and inundates seaside dining establishments
with the odor of rotting eggs. In July 2013, seaweed stranding
became so voluminous at some of the most popular ocean beaches
that the Town of Hempstead was forced to plow and truck it away on
a daily basis. Increased mixing in the ocean, advanced treatment
standards, and vigilant monitoring will provide for improvements to the bay as well as along ocean beaches.
Similar to the Deer Island case study: Improving treatment of effluent and discharging it to an improved
flushed location will dramatically reduce nutrients fueling harmful algae blooms and excessive seaweed
growth that currently fouls bay and ocean beaches.
2. It Will Protect the Salt Marsh Islands that in turn protect us.
The Western Bays’ salt marsh islands provide critical habitat for birds and marine species; offer substantial
economic opportunities for residents and tourists; and protect low-lying communities from damaging wave
energy and coastal erosion. Unfortunately, the integrity of these
marshes are being undermined by excessive nitrogen pollution
from the Bay Park STP. Studies evince their root systems are
thinning — making them more and more susceptible to erosion
and collapsing along their edges. As these marshes erode and
sink, shoreline communities lose their natural buffer against
high-energy waves, increasing the risk of wave and water
damage for many waterfront properties. Turning off the
nitrogen spigot in the bay will force the salt marsh roots to
work harder, strengthening the integrity of the salt marsh
islands that protect our coastal communities.
3. It Will Protect Communities & the Environment Against Future Catastrophic Events. Bay Park, one
of the oldest STP’s on Long Island, has a long history of troubles and violations, resulting in millions of
gallons of raw and partially treated sewage being released in dangerously close proximity to surrounding
bayside communities. Had the 2.2 billion gallon Sandy spill occurred during the hot summer months, it would
have and triggered serious ahuman health crises and at the exact time when residents and response crews were
already overburdened with many other storm-related emergencies. While ideally future disruptions can be
averted, we would be naive to believe they won’t recur. An ocean outfall pipe will ensure the even in a crisis,
sewage can be discharged offshore, outside the sensitive bay, and away from human communities.
Discharging Bay Park effluent further away from high density coastal communities and sensitive
enclosed embayment is the safest and most prudent course of action.
What Must Be Implemented Now
A Modern, State-of-the-Art Sewage Treatment Plant
The re-engineering of the Bay Park STP provides a unique opportunity to employ modern treatment
techniques that will improve the quality of effluent; abate plant noise and odor in the adjacent
communities; and recover and/or utilize waste resources. For instance, ultraviolet technology should
be installed to disinfect pathogens, rather than chlorine, which will save in chronic chemical costs and
be safer for our environment. In addition, recovery of latent heat from generators has the potential to
accelerate biological nitrogen reactions in winter; and methane gas can be used as a fuel.
Most importantly, it is critical to fully anticipate that wastewater treatment technology will continue to
advance. Therefore, any STP reconstruction must plan for incorporating future upgrades and
technological improvements into its design. It is also important to note modernizations that advance
energy efficiencies or resource recovery opportunities that may be eligible for assistance from the US
DOE or NYSERDA.
Strict & Enforceable Discharge Standards
Nassau County’s economy is heavily dependent upon water-based recreation, fisheries and beaches.
Transferring the bay’s problems to the ocean is not an acceptable outcome. Relocating the outfall pipe
from Reynolds Channel to the New York Bight is in no way intended to be a “free-pass’. Simply, the
days of permitting sewage discharges into any surface waters without the strictest of treatment
standards, compliance and respective enforcement are at an end. A successfully renovated, state-of
-the-art Bay Park Treatment Plant will set an example and incentive to “reset the bar,;” acting as the
archetypal model for future STP renovations and constructions and mandating the highest possible
outfall discharge standards in New York Bight.
After extensive research and numerous meetings throughout the last several years, the Western Bays
Coalition recognizes and supports an established and highly experienced, qualified, professional
contractor, specializing in wastewater treatment management, to be an essential component for a
cleaner bay and ocean. It has become exceedingly clear the Bay Park STP must be operated by a
management and engineering firm possessing a proven history of successfully operating and
implementing advanced wastewater technology.
Two other key components are crating a community oversight board; and installing digital real-time
dashboard to monitor key discharge parameters. Community oversight and real-time monitoring
will not only help facilitate local supervision, but also expedite compliance reporting for plant
operators and assist County officials in effectuating their reporting requirements to state and
federal agencies. When installed, the dashboard could send real-time information directly to NY State,
in a way that is compliant and consistent with the Sewage Right to Know Law, signed by Governor
Cuomo in August 2012.
The Western Bays Coalition
Citizens Campaign for the Environment * Operation SPLASH *
The Nature Conservancy * Point Lookout Civic Association *