Oyster Bay Town Councilwoman Beth Faughnan, NYS DEC Regional Director Peter Scully, NC Presiding Officer Diane Yatauro, NC Executive Tom Suozzi, TOB Supervisor John Venditto, NYS Senator Carl Marcellino and Lattingtontown Mayor Clarence Michalis. Photo courtesy of Friends of the Bay

After 40 years of "sewer suffering," Nassau County Executive Thomas R. Suozzi and Town of Oyster Bay Supervisor John Venditto were joined on April 16, by Nassau County Presiding Officer Diane Yatauro, Oyster Bay Town Councilwoman Elizabeth Faughnan, New York State Senator Carl Marcellino (R-Syosset), local residents and Friends of the Bay representatives, including former FOB Executive Director Kyle Rabin who came to see the conclusion of the long process - that culminated in the beginning of construction on a new sewage collection system for the Locust Valley community known as "The Birches."

Bayville Mayor Victoria Siegel joined in the praise for the solution to the problem which has affected the health of Mill Creek - an important water body for the village. "We belong in the forefront because we've been fighting this for over 20 years and brought this to the attention of the Attorney General because it was affecting the shellfish beds and the quality of the navigational waters and was something that needed to be solved.

"It's wonderful that all of the government agencies have gotten together and put the interest of the people first and are getting this done. It is wonderful. We started over 20 years ago meeting with the residents of the Davis Park Civic Association and moving this forward as far as we could. Three or four years ago we went to the Attorney General's office and that is when everything started moving," said Mayor Siegel.

Dave Relyea, Frank M. Flower & Sons, Inc. spokesperson for the shellfish company whose hatchery is located at the end of Mill Neck Creek, just as those waters enter Oyster Bay Harbor, said, "This has been a very important project for us going back to the 70s. We've been trying to get them to do something since that time and it's been like pulling teeth between the county and town as to which was responsible. The NYS DEC has been willing for a long time to fund it. Now, everyone is on the same page and it is going to be done and poor quality water is no longer going into the creek. That will be better for the shellfish," he said.

"And down the road, we might be able to open Mill Neck Creek for shellfishing. It's been a long haul but we are getting there," he said happily.

For a while it appeared the solution had been found, to build a sewage treatment plant on a vacant lot between two houses in the Birches area, in a project funded by the town and the county. The two homeowners adjacent to the site alerted the town and the county as to the greater problems that decision would cause making the municipalities take a second look at the proposal and coming up with the new solution.

"This is an excellent solution to this 40-year problem, and a great example of two different governments, Nassau County and the Town of Oyster Bay, working together, said Nassau County Executive Thomas R. Suozzi. "This is really a win-win situation for everyone. Not only will the quality of life improve for these residents but this project also means that waste materials will not end up in our local waterways, so we'll be helping the environment."

"I know many residents, and some of us in government, wondered if we would ever see this day. This joint project between the Town of Oyster Bay and Nassau County underscores what can be accomplished when government cuts through the political and bureaucratic maze to work together with residents for a common cause, in this case a problem that has been plaguing The Birches for 40 years. I know the residents are looking forward to the major improvement the new roads, sidewalks and drainage, not to mention the new sewer system, will make to their neighborhood and to their overall quality of life and health. The benefit to the environment can't be understated because this project will improve water quality in Mill Neck Creek and beyond" said Town of Oyster Bay Supervisor John Venditto.

The County and Town have joined together to develop a plan to share the $13.2 million cost that will finally solve the decades-long problem of flooding in the Birches neighborhood.

This project is eligible for ARRA environmental stimulus funding thru the NYS Environmental Facilities Corp. It is anticipated that this project will receive a low interest loan as well as partial loan forgiveness up to 50%. Both the County and the Town are submitting applications for their share of the project costs. A $540,000 grant from the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation will also help pay for the project.

"Today marks a new beginning for residents in this community. We begin the long anticipated project which will soon end decades of environmental hazard and neighborhood inconvenience. I am proud to be a part of the solution that rescued this community from a nightmare," said Presiding Officer Diane Yatauro

"As a Town Councilwoman, I enjoy helping residents all across the Town with various issues. Today is extra special, though, because I am a lifelong resident of Locust Valley and now I've been able to literally help my neighbors rid themselves of a problem that has been impacting their health and their daily lives in ways the rest of us can only imagine. This is truly a great day for residents of The Birches, who now can see a light at the end of what has been a very long and very dark tunnel. I applaud everyone involved, particularly Supervisor Venditto and County Executive Suozzi, for their roles in developing a creative and effective solution to this difficult problem," said Oyster Bay Councilwoman Elizabeth Faughnan.

"It is an important quality of life issue for the residents of The Birches to have good, clean water and working sewers, a 40-year-old problem. In fact, the DEC has been focused on contamination coming from The Birches since 1981.I am happy that Nassau County and the Town of Oyster Bay have partnered to improve conditions and bring relief to homeowners in the neighborhood," said Assemblyman Charles D. Lavine.

"Sewer projects don't grab headlines very often, but the Birches Project is important because this day marks the completion of a long road to improving the quality of life for the residents in this Locust Valley community and the beginning of the cleanup of Mill Neck Creek. This project is a great example of how all levels of government can achieve a goal that benefits the public and the environment," said Senator Carl L. Marcellino.

Sewage disposal has been a chronic problem in the 49-home Birches community since it was developed in the 1960's because it is located in an area with a high water table, and flooding is a common occurrence each time it rains. Cesspool overflow is currently emptied into an overworked storm water drainage system, which eventually discharges into Mill Neck Creek. In 1983, a chlorination tank was installed to reduce bacteria contamination to the creek, but the treated wastewater does not meet NYSDEC standards.

Last year, the Nassau County Department of Public Works took over operation at the Glen Cove Sewage Treatment Plant, which will now allow for the re-routing of wastewater for treatment to Glen Cove. This will eliminate the discharge of treated water into Mill Neck Creek, and will ensure that the creek's water quality remains high.

The improvements of existing facilities include the planning, design and construction of a sanitary sewage collection system, pumping station, sewage force main, storm water conveyance system, and roadway enhancements. The new pumping station, which will be designed with community input, will be constructed on a county-owned lot that already houses the chlorine contact chamber. Construction of the new collection and storm drain system that is currently buried beneath local roadways began on Thursday, April 16.

The county and town agree to provide monetary relief for homeowners with overflowing septic systems until the sewage collection system is available for use. Nassau County allows for disposal of the homeowner's cesspool pump-out waste at the Bay Park Sewage Treatment Plant at no cost, and the Town of Oyster Bay reimburses homeowners for one-half of the cesspool company's invoice for performing the pump-out service. Homeowners will be able to begin connecting to the new collection system in December 2010.

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