2005-12-23 / Community

Water Pollution Plant Overhaul Set For 2006

By Roseanne Honan

  • A modernization project that will pump in millions of dollars in new equipment and promises to eventually address odor-control at the Rockaway Water Pollution Control Plant is slated to begin in 2006, The Wave has learned.
  • Details of the plan are outlined in a letter dated December 2 from Department of Environmental Protection Deputy Commissioner Vincent Sapienza to City Councilman Joseph Addabbo Jr.

    “Regarding the Rockaway plant, the DEP recently completed a Facility Plan calling for a phased modernization of the equipment and structures. The initial phase of the program will include replacement of equipment totaling $25 million. Design work is expected to begin in 2006. Future phases of work will include odor-control systems consistent with all air-quality requirements,” Sapienza wrote.

    Local residents have long complained to local representatives and in letters to The Wave about the odors that create a hold-your-breath zone near Beach 105 Street and Beach Channel Drive. Earlier this year, Community Board 14 District Manager Jonathon Gaska, encouraged people to call 311 after residents reported that the odor was particularly strong.

    Sapienza also stated in the letter that in 2004, the Rockaway plant received the National Association of Clean Water Agencies’ Peak Performance Award for perfect compliance with environmental discharge standards.

    With the housing boom taking place on the peninsula, many are concerned that the plant will be unable to perform properly for a burgeoning population.

    These concerns led Addabbo to write at least two letters advocating for a plant upgrade. Sapienza responded to the Councilman’s queries, and wrote this about the odor problem: “While the facility is a well-performing plant, we acknowledge that some parts of the operation can at times produce unpleasant odors. Staff at the plant are attentive to these areas, insuring that doors are closed, containers are covered, and biological systems are appropriately monitored.”

    The city owns 14 waste water pollution control plants, which are dotted along most of New York’s major waterways, including the Hudson River, Coney Island, and the Bowery. They are mapped on the city’s website, NYC.gov.

    The Rockaway plant, built in 1952, collects sewage water and debris by the millions of gallons. Three separate treatments filter sewage and sludge, until the final disinfectant stage, where the water is released into the open ocean and Jamaica Bay. The plant was last upgraded in 1974.

    Addabbo said he is pleased with the proposed 2006 plant modernizations.

    “This has been a chronic problem in Rockaway for many years. The odor is an unbearable nuisance and possibly a health issue for residents and workers. Something had to be done,” he told The Wave.

    With the facility plan slated for the Wastewater Pollution Control Plant in 2006, Rockaway residents may have odor-free days ahead, even in the sweltering summer months.

    “It will be nice to drive past there and not have to hold my breath. The upgrade has been long overdue and I plan to keep an eye on it,” Addabbo said.

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