Lab in Point Lookout to reopen to monitor water quality

Originally published in Newsday

Hempstead and state officials said the reopening of the town’s water testing lab, shuttered after superstorm Sandy, will better monitor water quality in Reynolds Channel and along the South Shore.

Town officials said they hope to reopen the lab in Point Lookout by next spring as part of a $1 million restoration, including electrical, insulation, heating and air conditioning. Most of the work was done by town workers, officials said.

The lab was shuttered in 2012 after two feet of water flooded the building, which sits on the bayfront, east of the Loop Parkway bridge. Black mold and other contaminants were discovered in the lab after the storm. About $2 million in water testing equipment was salvaged.

Hempstead Supervisor Laura Gillen announced plans last year to reopen the lab using $300,000 in the town’s capital improvement plan. The town also received a $350,000 state grant from the Department of Environmental Conservation secured by State Sen. Todd Kaminsky (D-Long Beach) and a $240,000 grant from the Long Island Regional Planning Council.

The previous town administration had planned to close the lab and sell equipment at auction. Asbestos was removed earlier this month and air quality tests were done last week.

“This is an incredibly important resource, not just for the town but all of Long Island,” Gillen said. “This is an asset of the town worth investing in and salvaging for everyone on Long Island, surrounded by water.”

The town has operated the lab since 1966 as the largest water monitoring site on the Eastern Seaboard, Hempstead Conservation and Waterways Commissioner Thomas Doheny said.

He said the lab was created to monitor sewage coming into the bay.

He said the lab will use rain gauges and measure tides, chlorine and organic and particles and contaminants. The lab must be recertified with the Food and Drug Administration and the DEC to also eventually test drinking water, Doheny said.

The town also has a contract working on Long Island Regional Planning Council’s Nitrogen Action Plan with Hofstra University to bring staff and students to conduct water testing.

Officials said it’s important to continue testing water in Reynolds Channel as Nassau County and Long Beach work on a sewer consolidation plan that would divert sewage out of Reynolds Channel to Bay Park.

Nassau County lawmakers approved a $408 million bond that will eventually transfer sewage to an ocean outfall pipe at the Cedar Creek Water Pollution Control Plant in Wantagh. The project would end the annual discharge of 19 billion gallons into the Western Bays.

“We understand the quality of our water is critical. We’re at a transitional time and we need to get it right,” Kaminksy said. “We all share this earth and we have to do what we can to preserve what our forefathers envisioned for Nassau County.”

Lab restoration funding:

$350,000 from state DEC for remediations

$300,000 from Hempstead Town Capital Plan for repairs

$240,000 from Long Island Regional Planning Council for water monitoring and partnership with Hofstra University