The Long Island Regional Planning Council renewed a contract for the Town of Hempstead and Hofstra University to continue testing water quality in Reynolds Channel and the Western Bays.
The planning council, made up of community leaders, elected officials and organizations, voted to renew the contract for another year to pay up to $183,000 for town and Hofstra officials to monitor nitrogen levels and pollutants in the area's waters. It is the second extension of the contract and runs through September 2022.
Hempstead is partnering with Hofstra to study water quality.
Local officials and the state Department of Environmental Conservation are monitoring water quality while waiting for several major infrastructure projects to be completed. Officials are working on an Islandwide plan to improve water quality and reduce nitrogen through septic systems and other methods to reduce flushing sewage into Long Island’s enclosed waterways.
Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo broke ground in April on a $439 million project to redirect sewage out of Reynolds Channel from Bay Park in East Rockaway out into the Atlantic Ocean in Wantagh.
"The good news is the bay was starting to show improvements and continues to show improvements and there are a number of factors working in our favor," planning council executive director Richard Guardino said. "Water is the life blood of Long Island and I think there’s an acknowledgment we have to do things differently."
The Bay Park project, which would remove 55 million gallons of treated sewage pumped daily into the Western Bays, could restore water on the South Shore. By diverting sewage, the project would remove 95% of nitrogen in the waters and help restore 10,000 acres of water and tidal marshlands from East Rockaway to Point Lookout, officials said.
Construction started this spring on the 3-year project to reroute treated sewage from Bay Park to Cedar Creek Plant in Wantagh using an aqueduct under Sunrise Highway. It will then be redirected to an ocean outfall pipe, three miles out into the Atlantic.
The City of Long Beach also is converting its sewage treatment plant into a pump station to redirect to Bay Park and Cedar Creek.
Long Island officials also are conducting a study into a sewage system in Point Lookout, which currently relies on septic tanks.
Hempstead Town Supervisor Don Clavin said, "The extension of the Western Bays Water Quality Monitoring Program is critically important to the future of our expansive marine ecosystem within the South Shore of America’s largest township."
The Town of Hempstead also is using state funds to reopen its water quality testing lab in Point Lookout. The lab was shuttered due to flooding damage from Superstorm Sandy and water samples are currently being tested at a lab in Huntington. Once it returns online, the lab can assist the Nassau County Health Department to test for nitrogen and other chemicals like E. coli, Guardino said.
Sen. Todd Kaminsky (D-Long Beach), who chairs the state’s environmental conservation committee, said projects like Bay Park will restore the bays resulting in a better economy and recreation on the water.
"It is imperative we continue to monitor the quality of the water, with the help of Hofstra University, to ensure the project as a whole has a beneficial impact on our environment," Kaminsky said.