By Eden Laikin
This week before the Legislature, Nassau County Executive Ed Mangano presented a public-private partnership with an industry-leading company to manage and operate the County’s sewage treatment system at what he says will save taxpayers millions of dollars and help protect the environment.
After a public bidding and selection process, and then lengthy contract discussions with the administration, United Water was chosen to take over sewage treatment operations.
The contract calls for all current sewer employees to be offered new employment at the same level without any employee layoffs; it has a built-in 120-day transition period and includes the requirement to hold quarterly informational meetings on the company’s progress to be kept on a public website for additional transparency.
As part of the contract, United Water will make improvements that will for the first time hold the plants’ odor control system to the most stringent standards, in response to what neighbors described as “disastrous odor complaints” over years of neglect, poor maintenance and lack of infrastructure investment.
United Water would manage and operate Bay Park, Glen Cove and Cedar Creek STPs under a 20-year contract, which must still be approved by NIFA and then gets signed by the County Executive.
“This public-private partnership is a wiser alternative to operating our sewage treatment facilities, will mean greater capital investment, generate significant savings and improve our environmental protection efforts,” Mangano said. “This will mean more efficient and environmentally-friendly wastewater treatment for residents.”
United Water has operated a similar sized plant in Indianapolis for the past 20 years, testifying at yesterday’s legislative hearing that three different mayors there renewed their contract top operate their sewers each term.
Since taking office, the Mangano administration has invested $70 million in the Bay Park plant’s infrastructure, and sought an additional $830 million from the State and Federal governments to make more improvements and post-Sandy repairs. Numerous community meetings have been held, engaging neighbors from Bay Park and other areas as well as environmental groups including Operation SPLASH, League of Conservation Voters and Citizens Campaign for the Environment and Vision Long Island.
“It will certainly mean a savings of significant dollars,” Mangano said. He added that the contracts has been reviewed for financial analysis by Public Financial Management (PFM) – an independent Wall Street financial firm – and the Independent Legislative Budget Review Office (ILBRO) and that both agreed that there would be a significant cost reduction. PFM estimates a minimum $233 million reduction in operating costs for taxpayers.
United Water and the Mangano administration said there would not be any sewer tax rate increases or new sewer-related fees imposed. The sewer fund has been running a deficit for years but has held rates steady due to a fund balance.
A United Water official told legislators that this project “is very significant, very high profile, right in our headquarters’ backyard and will receive no shortage of attention from us.”