Like the deep wells and water mains that supply a continuous flow of water to your tap 24/7, the operation of the local sanitary sewage collection and treatment system is something people rarely think about. Three quarters of a century ago, the sewer system you rely on today was conceived and constructed. Since then, the system has undergone tremendous improvements to bring it up to modern standards and its function has become an irreplaceable service to the community.

The Oyster Bay Sewer District was established on August 17, 1926 by action of the Oyster Bay Town Board. The area encompasses 975 acres and as grown to include more than 20 miles of sewer. In 1928-29, construction was completed on a primary treatment plant, reflecting the technology that was available at that time.

Back then, when sewage entered the plant it underwent a separation process in an Imhoff tank. After the solids settled to the bottom of the tank, the liquid was chlorinated and discharged into Oyster Bay Harbor. The solids were then dewatered in greenhouses, utilizing a sand filter collection system, and disposed of. Today, liquid sludge is hauled away and disposed of according to strict government regulations.

During the 1960s, the three members of the Board of Commissioners decided it was time to upgrade the facility to current industry standards. Funded by a tax supported bond issue, the board authorized the facility's redesign and modernization to allow for the installation of secondary sewage treatment equipment. All the mechanical structures of the original plant, with the exception of the receiving wet well, were abandoned.

As it flowed into the newly renovated 1.2-million-gallon-per-day (MGD) plant, sewage passed through a bar screen and settling chamber to remove rags, sand and other debris. Primary and secondary settling tanks, two trickling Filters that cleansed water through layers of rocks for secondary treatment and a digester that reduced the volume of the sludge were also added to the plant. Additionally, the facility's chlorination system was upgraded, improving the disinfection process dramatically.

"The improvements made in the 1960s were substantial and set the standard for operating a plant with the most advanced available technology," stated Commissioner and Chairman of the Board Thomas D. Galasso. "The work done in the 1960s was a quantum leap forward. It laid the groundwork for the multi-million dollar upgrade the plant received 30 years later."

Thirty years later, the Oyster Bay Sewer District achieved the next milestone in its continuing effort to provide the best, environmentally sound service to its customers. A $6 million project, funded by a bond issue, was undertaken in the 1990s to further improve the quality of the effluent discharged into the harbor and prepare the 1.6 MGD facility to move into the new millennium.

The work included the installation of four rotating biological discs that turn slowly through the wastewater, allowing bacteria to consume the waste. A new chlorine contact tank was constructed to increase the time for treating the wastewater during peak flows. Primary and secondary settling tanks were added to enhance sludge settlement. New equipment was added to the trickling filters to improve performance. New pumps were installed to increase efficiency, a water recycling system was added and an administration building constructed to house the administrative staff and provide a location for record-storage, electrical controls and the emergency generator.

Additionally, the facility's emergency power system was upgraded, including the installation of a 300-kilowatt emergency generator. This new equipment proved its worth as a nor'easter smashed Long Island, causing extensive power outages, in December of 1992. The district's new generator was called into action, allowing treatment to continue with minimum interruption.

In 1998, the district and its staff were honored by the New York State Department of Environ-mental Conservation with an "Operations and Maintenance Excellence Award" for its superior performance level.

"The best compliment you can get is to be recognized by the government agency that oversees your operation and evaluates your performance," stated Com-missioner Galasso. "We are very proud of where we have come since the district was founded 75 years ago. I think the award we received exemplifies that."

Then, in the fall of 1998, District Commissioners Galasso and Joseph G. Pecora, PE met with Governor George E. Pataki and State Senator Carl Marcellino to accept a $3.75 million grant from the Clean Water/Clean Air Bond Act. The money will allow the Oyster Bay Sewer District to improve its wastewater treatment plant to reduce the level of nitrogen discharged into the sound by 62 percent, putting it 15 years ahead of what's required by the EPA.

Oyster Bay Sewer District Report
Produced by Ryan & Ryan PR, Inc.
Farmingdale, NY