The Oyster Bay Sewer District has completed 75 years of service to the community. It is the oldest sewer plant on Long Island.

During the life of the plant it has been upgraded twice: in 1965 and most recently in 1992. They will be renovating and adding on to the West End Ave. section sometime before the end of this year or in early 2002. They are currently facing the next upgrade of the treatment plant itself, as mandated by the NYS DEC. The current plans are ready, and waiting for funding, said Oyster Bay Sewer District Commissioner Jim Murphy. It will be a 20 months to two year construction which will start in early 2002 and be completed by 2003, said Steve Hearl, project manager.

They are planning to add on to the plant, to the west of the existing buildings.

It will add a new biological treatment process that will remove nitrogen to meet the proposed limit. Under the Clean Water/Clean Air Bond Act, the state will pay 85 percent of the $8 million construction cost. The district is looking for additional grant money to fund the process, said Mr. Hearl.

"The state wants 50 percent of the nitrogen taken out of the water. They are hitting the small districts to do that. And yet New York City is the culprit in my opinion," said Mr. Murphy. "They act as if the LI Sound goes to New York, not the opposite," he said. They say "It's your (the small sewer plants) fault."

Mr. Murphy took a philosophical stance on the next upgrade, "The technology will change by the time we complete it. There will be new guidelines in 15 years."

OBSD Attorney Anthony Cincotta added that the estimated useful life of technology today is short: computers need upgrading in three years. In contrast, he said the sewer pipes used are expected to last 40 years.

Mr. Murphy said, "While the harbor is cleaner than it has ever been, the DEC wants us to spend $8 million to upgrade."

Anniversary Ceremony

On Friday, Aug. 17, OBSD Commissioner Thomas D. Galasso spoke at the dais set up in front of the OBSD office building on Bay Avenue. He said," Exactly 75 years ago, Aug. 17, 1926, the town board created this sewer district." He said about 30 years ago, he remembered Syosset putting in sewers. He said Oyster Bay, with sewers for 75 years, was a great accomplishment for the elected officials back then. He thanked former commissioner and chairman of the board David Layton, who helped with the anniversary planning.

T.D. Galasso recognized elected officials attending that included U.S. Supreme Court Justice Roy Mahon, Acting NYS Supreme Court Justice Jack Galasso, (his brother), Bayville Mayor Victoria Siegel, Centre Island Mayor Jack Williams, Town of Oyster Bay Councilman Anthony Macagnone, former Town Supervisor Angelo Delligatti. Frank Goban also attended, as did Councilman Joseph Muscarelli who arrived later.

Councilman Delligatti said the creation of the OBSD was at the time a very unusual step to take and showed the foresight of the people in the hamlet and around Oyster Bay proper. He said, "It is not an accident that Oyster Bay is the clean harbor it is."

Mr. Delligatti said the OBSD has made upgrades to provide better service to customers and negate its impact on the harbor. "It's always easy to say you can do more. After 15 years on the town board I can see how much the commissioners have worked. Congratulation on the great job they have done. Keep up the good work."

Councilman Macagnone presented a proclamation to the district from the board.

OBSD Engineer Gary Loesch, executive vice president of H2M called the district the "guardian of Oyster Bay harbor since 1926." He said the commissioners, each with their own strengths created a synergistic effect as they deal with the financial aspects, the routine matters as well as major improvements. He congratulated OBSD Supervisor Thomas Rossetti for doing a great job. The OBSD won the 1999 NYS DEC Operations and Maintenace Excellence Award.

Plaques were given to past board member and chairman David Layton for his over 30 years of service. His father served on the Oyster Bay Sewer District before him.

Current board members were also given a plaque for their service: Jim Murphy, Jr.; Joe Pecora (NC DPW commissioner was in Washington, D.C. that day) and Thomas D. Galasso.

Plant Tour

Those attending were invited to tour the plant, portions of which date back 75 years.

Mr. Loesch said since 1992 the OBSD has met their permit expectations 99 percent of the time. The district serves the 975 acres of the hamlet. He explained the process which begins with taking out rags, sand and rocks from the system (sand can hurt the machinery). Solids are taken out along the way. There is a back up generator for the system in case of a LIPA emergency.

Tours of the plant were given during the day from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. The system is a lesson in high school biology from the trickling tank where bacteria purify the water to the methane gas taken from the residue that is used to fuel the furnace used to heat the water to take out the methane. It is a closed loop system.

"If you drive by and see a flame over the building, we are not on fire. We are doing Mother Nature's job on a grand scale," said David Layton.

The latest addition to the plant is a series of rotating biological contactors - RBC discs with bacteria on them, (like giant CDs) that continue the work of digesting the sludge. Interestingly, Mr. Layton said the bacteria acts its best at human body temperature, 98.6.

Elementary school children have scheduled visits to the plant to see how the system works, which ends at the moment when clean water heads for the harbor. It goes in by gravity or at high tide, by pump action.

Mr. Loesch, who is familiar with other sewage treatment plants said the Oyster Bay plant is kept in spotless condition. "You can see from just looking at the grounds. Everything, from the condition of the plant to the operations: there is so much pride in the operation." The workers are locals from Oyster Bay. Also present were Susan Troncone OBSD secretary and Milda Darzinskis, confidential secretary to the OBSD Board.

Western Waterfront

NYS Senator Carl Marcellino has secured a $500,000 grant to revitalize the West End Avenue section of the district, that area that serves the Western Waterfront area as well as the Roosevelt Beach facilities. The existing 840 feet of the line has required excessive maintenance and has root intrusion, cracks and off-set joints. As a result it can keep up with the limited seasonal demand but the increase load of the plans for the Western Waterfront mean they needed new manholes and sewer pipes.

Attention to Design

The attendees were given a souvenir clock designed by Lee Ann Kane of LaMa Media. The workers wore blue shirts with a 75th anniversary logo featuring a pearl resting inside a blue oyster. "We wandered the local beaches and found about 200 for my wife Lee to draw," said Mr. Kane. The OBSD website,, was designed by the Kanes. He said, while they are one of the company's smaller clients, the site has attracted new clients for the company. They too have a website:


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 Aug. 17, 1926 by action of the Oyster Bay Town Board. The area encompasses 975 acres and has 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 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 1900s 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 waste water, allowing bacteria to consume the waste. A new chlorine contact tank was constructed to increase the time for treating the waste water 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 was 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 Environmental 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," said Commissioner 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 waste water 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.

By Dagmar Fors Karppi
Copyright © 2001, Oyster Bay Enterprise-Pilot