By Eden Laikin
The first major improvements to be made to the ailing Bay Park Wastewater Treatment Plant in many years were detailed last week by County officials and contractors in a three-hour legislative hearing on the plant’s progress.
Six major projects to repair, upgrade and mitigate the storm-damaged Plant are currently underway, including the elevating of four substations. The project is to be completely funded by federal and state government funding. The Plant, which serves 40% of County residents, had been deteriorating from years of neglect when it was further damaged by a tidal surge from Superstorm Sandy. The approval of $832 million in funds represents the largest government funding for any singe project.
Democrats, who were in the Legislative Majority during nearly a decade that the plant was ignored, questioned the rate of progress in repairs.
Chief Deputy County Executive Rob Walker reminded the Democrat caucus that they refused to approve the bonds necessary to perform the repairs to the storm-damaged plant right after Sandy caused a 12-foot wave to crash into it.
Walker added that $120 million in contracts is set to be approved, by the Legislature and NIFA, for post-Sandy repairs and mitigation.
During Sandy, the plant took on flooding from Hewlett bay and Reynolds channel and was rendered inoperable for 56 hours. At least 50 different motors and drives, gear boxes and tanks were damaged – as was the Sludge dewatering facility. During that time, sewage began to build up and many surrounding houses were infiltrated by the waste.
Mangano immediately brought professionals in to do quick, needed repairs – reducing the number of damaged houses. Walker said the plant has continued to meet operating standards daily since 45 days after the storm. FEMA reimbursed the County $17 million for the temporary measures.
FEMA, which considers Bay Park a priority project, is to pay 90% of the cost and NY State is expected to pick up the 10% match. An RFP went out and a general contracting firm was selected, and approved, to make the fixes permanent. Representatives of the firm testified at the Legislature that a bi-monthly progress report will be posted online.
Part of the mitigation to prevent future storm damage includes building a perimeter barrier around the plant, and submergible pumps. New generators at the plant will run on natural gas for cleaner admissions and existing house generators are to be used as backup. A new de-ammonification process is expected to reduce nitrogen output by 90%. Repairs to the storm-damaged Acetylene tank, pump station 1, electrical distribution system, the clarifiers
Officials said 15% of the work has been completed, including major excavation, re-routing of piping, and piles going in both facilities. New odor control systems, a gravity belt thickener, the effluent screens, grid system, final tank repair and a digester cleanout – all planned pre-Sandy, are also under construction now.
Phase 2, the largest part of the project at $280 million, will add 2 new substations, a second feeder and transformers.
The administration informed legislators that several of the bids for the 4-year project have come back in lower than estimated – with one coming in $7 million less. He also assured them that the repair and construction jobs would be union jobs, under a Project Labor Agreement.
Construction of the new berm surrounding the plant is expected to start this summer; repairs to the electrical system should start within the next month.
Odor sensors will also be installed throughout the community to map where the complained-about odors emanate from. Officials are also exploring offsite parking for workers.