The construction of a nitrogen removal plant at the Oyster Bay Sewer District's waste water treatment facility designed specifically to comply with provisions of the Comprehensive Conservation and Management Plan (CCMP) for Long Island Sound moved closer to fruition this spring, thanks to an additional $2.9 million grant from New York State. This brings the total of state Clean Water/Clean Air Bond Act funds dedicated for this project to over $6.6 million.

"The protection of our natural resources and the preservation of the life and vitality of the environment in the Sound, as well as Oyster Bay Harbor, have always been our top priorities," said Thomas D. Galasso, Chairman of the Oyster Bay Sewer District Board of Commissioners. "With that in mind, we have strived to treat more than the applicable state and federal regulations. But, without the financial support of the state, the cost of meeting these recent mandates, set by the Long Island Sound plan, would have placed an intolerable burden on the sewer district. We are grateful to Governor Pataki for his continued support."

Since the availability of Bond Act funds is limited, the district is taking advantage of these grants now, so as to not end up having to implement the required improvements at a later date, without the benefit of any outside funding. Unfortunately, even with this funding, our district taxpayers will have to pay a portion of the construction costs; all non-construction related costs and annual operating and maintenance costs.

The reduction of nitrogen in the Long Island Sound was identified as a top priority item in the Long Island Sound Plan. As part of those efforts, New York State had agreed to reduce nitrogen discharges to the Sound by 58.5 percent over the next decade. The proposed treatment plant will actually put the Oyster Bay Sewer District's facility ahead of that commitment.

"When completed, this advanced wastewater treatment plant will have the capability to treat its anticipated design flow concurrent with a reduction in the 1990 baseline nitrogen loading of 65 percent, putting us 10 years ahead of NYSDEC's (New York State Department of Environmental Conservation) requirements," Galasso added. "This will accrue to the benefit or our citizens today, as well as many generations into the future.

Nitrogen is directly linked to low levels of dissolved oxygen, a condition called hypoxia, which can endanger aquatic and marine life. Excessive levels of nitrogen help fuel the growth of planktonic algae, which eventually die and settle to the bottom of the Sound. The algae then decay, using up precious oxygen in the process. Especially during the summer months, oxygen is unable to penetrate the lower levels of the water, and the decaying algae uses up the available oxygen faster than it can be replenished by nature, thus creating hypoxia. A lack of oxygen would threaten the health and lives of many forms of marine and aquatic life.

The improvements to the Oyster Bay Sewer District plant are part of a bi-state effort with Connecticut to improve the condition of Long Island Sound initiated under the administration of Governor George Pataki.

"The importance of the Long Island Sound dates back to the early days of our nation," said Governor Pataki, " and this agreement will ensure that this magnificent waterway remains a vibrant resource well into the future. Through the coordinated efforts of state, federal and local organizations to protect and restore the Sound, we have significantly improved its water quality. This latest investment will expand on those efforts."

In addition to the sewer district's nitrogen reduction plant, New York State has funded a wide range of water quality improvement projects throughout the north shore of the Nassau-Suffolk region. In addition, the state of Connecticut is overseeing the reduction of nitrogen discharges from 79 sewage treatment plants located across from Long Island's north shore.

"All of these efforts will have an accumulative, positive impact on the future health of the Sound," concluded Galasso.

With state funding secured, the final regulatory step for the development of the nitrogen removal project rests with the Oyster Bay Town Board, which, pursuant to state law, must authorize the district to float the necessary bonds required to provide for sufficient cash flow and pay the local share needed to build the treatment facility. The town will schedule a public hearing on this proposal in the near future.

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