Memo to the NYSDEC From The Nature Conservancy On Advanced Sewage Treatment

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Memo to the NYSDEC From The Nature Conservancy On Advanced Sewage Treatment

  1. 1. To: From: Date: Re: Interested Parties Carl LoBue, The Nature Conservancy January 12, 2014 Further discussion on advancing the level of treatment of sewage at Bay Park STP assuming approval, funding, and installation of an ocean outfall. Several weeks ago, The Nature Conservancy submitted a letter to US EPA, HUD, and FEMA urging them to come together to express support, allocate and prioritize funding, and expedite process and permitting for the rehabilitation, re-engineering, and fortification of the Bay Park Sewage Treatment Plant and the ancillary wastewater treatment infrastructure of south-west Nassau County. In particular, the letter documented the rationale to: • • • • • • • replace the existing outfall pipe that discharges to Reynolds Channel with an outfall to the Atlantic Ocean; consolidate treatment of sewage from adjacent communities to meet current and anticipated regional wastewater needs; fortify the treatment plant facility and its vulnerable assets to prevent damage from future storms; modernize technology to advanced treatment that will reduce nitrogen; adopt design plans that can readily accommodate future treatment for emerging contaminants; transform to real-time digital monitoring and automated flow and discharge compliance reporting, and establish a community oversight board as part of the agreement with private professional operator(s). Significantly, these recommendations mirror those expressed by US Senator Schumer in May 20131, and represent consensus of a long list of community stakeholders and civic leaders. These recommendations were developed as a result of thorough review of the findings of a series of publicly financed studies and planning documents that were produced just prior to and immediately after Hurricane Sandy2,3,4. Based upon findings of studies specifically focused on eutrophication impairments and TMDL development for the western bays, there is now wide-spread anticipation that Limit of Technology (LOT) nitrogen removal standards will soon be mandated should Bay Park Sewage Treatment Plant (STP) continue to discharge to Reynolds Channel4. As a follow-up to the December 11th letter, The Nature Conservancy would like to more fully elaborate the rationale for our call for advancing the treatment level and thus improving the quality of sewage effluent, assuming that there will be approval and financial support to consolidate treatment, and relocate the combined western bays sewage effluent (Bay Park, Long Beach, Lawrence, Cedarhurst, and Atlantic Beach) through a new outfall pipe to the New York Bight. Consideration of what treatment standards are appropriate with relocation of the outfall to NY Bight will ultimately require an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) that considers the anticipated impacts based on the new location5. Such impacts will be directly related to the volume and contents of the sewage effluent, therefore, alternatives that include different levels of treatment must be considered as part of the NEPA process. Information on the impacts of large volume sewage discharges on marine systems, our current understanding of conditions in NY Bight, and the options available for treatment have greatly expanded since EPA last completed the Environmental Impact Statement that approved construction of the then proposed Cedar Creek and Bergen Point STP ocean outfall projects in 19726. In addition, we
  2. 2. believe that common sense, good science, and legal requirements dictate that the new EIS should consider cumulative impacts of other sewage discharges into NY Bight. Pending the thorough review that will be part of that EIS, our view that some level of advanced treatment should be included as plans are currently developed to upgrade this facility is based upon a basic understanding of the impacted areas. New York Bight is obviously a far larger waterbody than the poorly flushed western bays7. Thus, in and of itself, moving the sewage outfall outside of the estuary and away from densely populated bayside communities is projected to provide significant mitigation of environmental, human health, and quality of life issues that are currently problematic within the estuary and along the ocean beaches that chronically accumulate decomposing sea lettuce, a noxious algae8. That is why there is very strong support within a broad coalition for relocating the outfall to NY Bight, and why we strongly encourage relocation of the outfall under any circumstances. New York Bight, however, is not an inexhaustible receiving body for secondary treated sewage. Cumulatively, New York Ocean  sewage  outfalls  in  NJ  (from  Clean   Ocean  Action.org)   Bight is already receiving sewage from 14 separate ocean outfalls in New Jersey, two on Long Island (Bergen Pt. and Cedar Creek), and also receives sewage effluent via conveyance from NY/NJ Harbor and Jamaica Bay. Although less research has been done on the cumulative impacts of sewage effluent in NY Bight than has been done in adjacent estuaries, recent studies show that New York Bight is already failing to attain NYS DEC’s and USEPA’s best usage criteria for dissolved oxygen9, which is a symptom of eutrophication observed in other areas where there are high nitrogen loads from sewage and/or agriculture. In addition, model projections suggest that pending nitrogen and carbon TMDLs in New York Harbor Estuary will not significantly mitigate the area or decrease days of non-attainment of best use in NY Bight9. These findings in and of themselves strongly suggest that the chronic addition of large volumes of secondary treated sewage will result in additional impairments to NY Bight. Projected  days  of   dissolved  oxygen   standards  non-­‐ attainment  under   baseline  conditions.       Based  on  SWEM   results  and  NYS  DEC   Chronic  Dissolved   Oxygen  Standard  for   marine  waters.       1989  hydrodynamics       From  HydroQual  2010   report  to  US  EPA/NY   9 NJ  HEP  
  3. 3. In the absence of incorporating additional nitrogen reducing treatment technology and in the reengineering of the Bay Park STP, the total additional nitrogen loads to NY Bight from the new outfall will be greater than the 2,445 tons of total nitrogen annually (much of it in the form of ammonium), which are now discharged from Bay Park (2,247 tons), Long Beach (157 tons), Atlantic Beach (11 tons), and Lawrence (30 tons) STPs8. The effluent is likely to exceed the current loads because of the anticipated addition of the Cedarhurst district, eventual expansion of sewer service to Point Lookout, and projected population growth and new development in the County. Public concerns over the impacts of the existing sewage discharges to fisheries, wildlife, recreation, and human health within New York Bight and its fringing ocean beaches in NY and NJ have already prompted calls from Clean Ocean Action and its supporters for a federally designated ocean management area from Cape May to Montauk Point called the New York Bight Clean Ocean Zone where all additional sewage discharges would be prohibited10. However, as detailed in our December 11th letter, The Nature Conservancy has concluded that in order for Long Island to remain a vibrant and attractive place to live and work, the option of discharging highly treated sewage effluent to NY Bight must remain open. Reasons for this conclusion follow. As you of course are aware, there are well-documented environmental, human health, and economic development needs to modernize Long Island’s wastewater infrastructure. Three million residents rely on Long Island’s sole source underground drinking water aquifers for all of our fresh water needs. These aquifers are already compromised and trending worse from elevated nitrate and other compounds such as pharmaceuticals that originate from cesspools and septic systems11. Upgrading the 70% of Suffolk County and almost 30% of Nassau County that still rely on cesspools and septic systems will require sewer expansion, particularly in high groundwater areas were septic systems are failing. Recharging groundwater aquifers with this volume of sewage is currently not viable11. And, almost every single fresh and estuarine surface water body on Long Island is already impaired12, disqualifying them as preferred areas for additional sewage discharges. Thus, even when the technology for recovering resources from wastewater becomes more accessible, Long Island will still be forced to look towards New York Bight as receiving water for additional sewage effluent in the future because other options are severely limited. Ocean resources and clean beaches are incredibly valuable to Long Island, thus it is critical to assure that effluent is treated to high enough standards to avoid further compromising the integrity of this nationally significant waterbody. Notably, the nitrogen limits that are appropriate for a new ocean outfall at Bay Park are not as expensive or cumbersome as the LOT standards that would most certainly be required should the outfall location remain inside the estuary. Specifically, we are recommending total nitrogen discharge standards of 8 mg N/l. Treatment to this level is far less expensive than treatment to 3 mg N/l (LOT). For example, the
  4. 4. State of New Hampshire estimated the costs to upgrade its effluent standards to 8 mg N/l for STPs discharging to Great Bay, NH would be 55% of the capitol cost and 25% of the operations and maintenance costs required to upgrade them to 3 mg N/l14. We are also recommending that the reconstructed Bay Park plant be designed and fortified in such a way as to readily accommodate treatment add-ons to achieve higher standards and/or target emerging contaminants in the future. This is a common sense design approach that will save money and expedite future upgrades and resource recovery opportunities. The redesigned plant should also utilize ultra-violet (UV) as opposed to chlorine as a disinfectant. This process will not only render the final effluent more compatible with living marine resources in NY Bight, it will also be cost effective because the increases in the costs for chlorine and sodium hypochlorite are outpacing the costs of energy to run the UV system2. We strongly recommend that NYS DEC and US EPA apply a cooperative multi-agency precautionary approach to the current situation at Bay Park The plant must undergo massive re-engineering now. In fact engineering designs will need to be completed in advance of the final findings of the ocean outfall EIS. It is more fiscally responsible to anticipate the treatment upgrades now as part of the re-engineering and fortification designs of the plant compound. Conversely, the annual addition of roughly 2,500 tons of nitrogen into a waterbody that is already failing to fully achieve its best use designation, less than 3 miles from Long Island’s most populous ocean beach community, is an unnecessary gamble that is inconsistent with the missions of these agencies and with major investments currently being made to revitalize the city of Long Beach. Finally, any degradation of NY Bight would negatively impact fisheries and coastal economies of New York and New Jersey. Based on experience it would take years of expensive taxpayer funded research to thoroughly document these types of problems, and then additional years of costly studies to develop a bistate TMDL for NY Bight. Subsequent to that it would take more than a decade to phase in upgrades to the new and recently re-designed STP at Bay Park at a time when there will unlikely be the financial resources available to make those upgrades. In that scenario, New York would once again be in the undesirable and expensive position of having to restore a major waterbody as opposed to simply protecting it. We are convinced that the approach most consistent with Governor Cuomo’s forward-looking philosophy of preparing infrastructure for the future is to rebuild Bay Park STP now in a way that anticipates future needs. Then, even if conditions in NY Bight deteriorate in the future, the focus can be on modernizing the older existing treatment plants rather than re-building Bay Park for a second time. Right now there is an unprecedented outpouring of community support for making necessary investments in Nassau County’s wastewater infrastructure. Prior to Hurricane Sandy the dialog around Bay Park STP issues was mired in animosity and contempt among community groups and stakeholders towards government officials who were blamed for years of neglect, endless studies, and seeming inaction. But the need to come together after Sandy has completely transformed the tone of the civic discourse. The tone now is of collaboration towards a universally supported vision for modern, well managed wastewater treatment system that complement’s NY Rising’s goals for resilient and vibrant waterside communities in southwest Nassau County. As final plans emerge, however, we are concerned that a failure to take advantage of the opportunity to improve treatment will create the appearance that a decision has been made to simply relocate the ongoing chronic sewage caused problems from the bayside of Long Beach Island to the ocean side of Long Beach Island. This will fracture the unity, foster mistrust, and give voice and momentum to otherwise well-intentioned advocates who steadfastly oppose any and all additional sewage discharges into New York Bight.
  5. 5. While the expense may seem to be daunting, the investment now to increase wastewater treatment and move the outfall can be a win-win for everyone -- NYS DEC, the other government agencies, the people living in the community and the environment. As always, I am available should you have any questions. Sincerely, Carl LoBue Sr. Marine Scientist The Nature Conservancy on Long Island NY 250 Lawrence Hill Rd Cold Spring Harbor NY, 11724 631-367-3384 ext 113 clobue@tnc.org Footnotes 1. 2. 3. 4. 5. 6. 7. 8. 9. 10. 11. 12. 13. 14. Schumer C. US Senator. May 29 2013 letter to EPA, FEMA, and HUD. Dvirka and Bartilucci 2009. Long Beach Sewage Treatment Plant Alternatives Feasibility Study. http://www.google.com/url?sa=t&rct=j&q=&esrc=s&source=web&cd=1&cad=rja&ved=0CEcQFjAA&url=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.l ongbeachny.gov%2Fvertical%2Fsites%2F%257BC3C1054A-3D3A-41B3-8896814D00B86D2A%257D%2Fuploads%2F%257B35FF376B-F530-458D-A4893C68164D6284%257D.PDF&ei=YObFUpvXLMKY2QWm_oDwCg&usg=AFQjCNFzVf-NJXaRzd1k0IDnx3nzSYLrQ&sig2=P871DQ54fMw5x8SDAai5Aw&bvm=bv.58187178,d.b2I Gulbransen T., et al 2013. Ecosystem Assessment and Nitrogen Management in Western Bays. NY. Report to NEIWPCC CH2MHILL. 2013. Nassau County Bay Park Sewage Treatment Plant Report for the Conceptual Study of Alternatives to Meet Future Nutrient Limits. Prepared for NCDPW. NEPA and EIS compliance criteria. http://www.epa.gov/compliance/basics/nepa.html#eis EPA 1972. Environmental Impact Statement on Wastewater Facilities Treatment Construction Grants in Nassau and Suffolk Counties, NY. http://nepis.epa.gov/Exe/ZyNET.exe/2000P6DM.PDF?ZyActionP=PDF&Client=EPA&Index=Prior%20to%201976&File=D%3A%5 CZYFILES%5CINDEX%20DATA%5C70THRU75%5CTXT%5C00000002%5C2000P6DM.txt&Query=&SearchMethod=1&Fuzzy Degree=0&User=ANONYMOUS&Password=anonymous&QField=&UseQField=&IntQFieldOp=0&ExtQFieldOp=0&Docs= Wilson R. and D. Yang. 2013. Quantitative Description of the Spatial Patterns in Residence Times within the Hempstead Bays Region. A Report to Battelle Memorial Institute and New York State Department of State. April 2013 Swanson L. et al. 2013. A Synthesis of Loadings, Monitoring, Information, and Impairments in the Western Bays. A Report to Battelle Memorial Institute and New York State Department of State. April 2013 HydroQual 2010. Final Technical Report – Assessment of NY Bight Data Technical Memoranda. NEI 0286-007. http://harborestuary.org/reports/nutrient/AssessmentOfNYBight0410.pdf Clean Ocean Action NY Bight Clean Ocean Zone Federal Proposal 2011 www.cleanocean.worldpress.com CDM 2010. Suffolk County Comprehensive Water Resources Management Plan. http://www.suffolkcountyny.gov/Default.aspx?TabID=1034&cid=5&fid=1261 Wood, C. 2006. Recharge for a Sole-Source Aquifer: The Successes and Failures of Cedar Creek Treatment Facility, Nassau County, Long Island. Hydrogeology: Wastewater Reclamation and Groundwater. Dartmouth Undergraduate Journal of Science. http://dujs.dartmouth.edu/wp-content/uploads/2008/04/wastewater.pdf NYS DEC 2011. The Atlantic Ocean/Long Island Sound Basin Waterbody inventory and Priority Waterbodies List. Vol 2. Nassau and Suffolk Counties. http://www.dec.ny.gov/docs/water_pdf/pwlalis11v2.pdf Trownbridge, P., 2010. Analysis of Nitrogen Loading Reductions for Wastewater Treatment Facilities and Non-Point Sources in the Great Bay Estuary Watershed. Report for State of New Hampshire Department of Environmental Services http://des.nh.gov/organization/divisions/water/wmb/coastal/documents/gb_nitro_load_analysis.pdf

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