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Do Six Inches Matter?

Two major utility providers, the Water Authority of Great Neck North and the Water Pollution Control District, are wrestling with a strong difference of opinion about the placement and construction of a small portion of the new sewer line on East Shore Road.


As a part of the $60 million sewage treatment plant upgrade, the district is laying 600 feet of a new sewer line that in one section is closer to an Authority water main than the plans required. There was supposed to be a buffer of six inches in distance between the16-inch water main which is under the 30-inch sewer line. The contractor when installing it left a three-inch buffer instead. 


The Water Authority maintains that the construction is “unacceptable” and could lead to problems down the road and the sewer district maintains that the potential for problems is “minimal.”


This issue erupted at a recent Great Neck Village Officials Association meeting when Saddle Rock Mayor Dan Levy, an Authority, charged that the crossing of the two major mains was very dangerous with the potential for an unsanitary cross-pollution, although his terminology was a bit more colorful. Mayors, whose villages receive water from the Authority, serve on the board of directors. It became clear during the VOA meeting that the entire board supports rectifying the situation.

The Water Authority contends that it would be a lot cheaper to fix the problem now rather than waiting to see if a problem develops.


At a sewer district meeting on April 5, the commissioners and their consultants were equally emphatic that the three-inch difference in the spacing of the two pipes that runs laterally for six inches before the water main dives deeper is “highly unlikely.” Commissioner Steve Reiter said that the water pipe, made of ductile iron, much less brittle and much stronger than plain iron, and installed in 2000 has little potential for leakage.  


Since this is a major water main supplying much of Kings Point and the Village of Great Neck, the Water Authority board members are worried that a failure would result in a shut-down of water delivery for at least 10 days and would result in difficulties supplying water for fires in that area. Superintendent Gregory Graziano is also concerned that East Shore Road with its heavy traffic and heavy load-bearing vehicles could negatively impact on the proximity of the lines.

Both Graziano and WPCD superintendent Christopher Murphy have expressed to the Record that they want to sit down and hash this matter out. Ironically, the engineering firm that designed the plan, Dvirka and Bartilucci, works for both utilities.


Essentially, the Water Authority wants the sewer district to perform an “offset” of the piping in that section, estimating that it would cost $50,000 to $75,000 if done now while the roadwork is continuing. 


In a text message Murphy wrote, “While we don’t have an exact number, it’s estimated to be costly and result in serious delays … we’re confident that once we meet, we’ll work together to resolve their concerns.”

Road Work Issues

At the same district meeting, Murphy also explained that prior to working on East Shore Road, all of the utilities and municipalities were contacted and asked to come and mark where the pipes are located and how deep they are. And so it was that the water authority, National Grid, LIPA, telephone, cable and municipalities with storm drains came and marked up the street. Commissioner Deena Lesser said, “It’s a snakepit under the roads.”


Prior to digging, the contractor for the district does test probes to insure that unknown pipes and lines are not present. This process can become extremely time consuming. For example, if an unmarked, unaccounted for pipe is found, National Grid must sign off that it is not theirs because it would obviously be very dangerous to hit a gas line.

In reality, oftentimes utilities abandon an old pipe when they upgrade piping, but unfortunately, do not always keep a record of these abandoned pipes.

East Shore Road is controlled by Nassau County and they decide exactly how the traffic is to be diverted, where and how many cones are positioned and what other safeguards can be in place so that traffic moves... and moves safely. Any complaints, issues or suggestions about the construction traffic should be sent to the Nassau County Department of Public Works.


At this point, the upgrade project at the sewer facility is ahead of schedule.