Taking the plunge: the largest public-private partnership for sewage in the U.S.

Small_100 Morris Ave 0412

Bay Park Sewage Treatment Plant

With a nationwide infrastructure investment gap of more than $500 billion for drinking water and wastewater treatment over the next twenty years, and a landscape of essential infrastructure systems across the U.S. that have fallen into disrepair, there has long been speculation on how the private sector can fill the gap or find an even greater niche in what has traditionally been a publicly dominated sector.

Last week, Nassau County, NY and United Water brought an end to that speculation and made history by announcing the largest public-private partnership for sewage to-date in the U.S.  The County on Long Island awarded a 20-year contract with a value of over $1.2 billion to United Water to professionally operate, manage and maintain the county’s sewage treatment plants, pumping stations and sewers. The system handles the sewage from 1.2 million people and treats it for disposal into environmentally sensitive estuaries.

A coalition of citizen activists, environmental leaders and elected officials decided that an overhaul of the Nassau County sewer system was needed after Hurricane Sandy hit Long Island and the Bay Park Sewage Treatment Plant failed to treat hundreds of millions of gallons of sewage before dumping it into the Western Bays on Nassau County’s South Shore.  They identified the need for a professional operator with global expertise – such United Water – and worked with County Executive Ed Mangano to bring the solution to bear.

By providing industry-leading technology and management expertise to solve a major environmental challenge in one of New York’s most prominent suburban areas, we will:

  • Improve performance on environmental standards;
  • clean discharges to meet New York State Environmental Protection Department standards;
  • eliminate odors from the Bay Park, Cedar Creek and the Glen Cove sewage treatment plants;
  • provide unprecedented transparency on our performance by posting operational data and live video feeds from facilities and outflow pipes on its web site – an industry first;
  • guarantee cost savings of more than $230 million throughout the contract’s duration;
  • and improve the system’s operating efficiency by reducing energy consumption; reducing chemical use; reducing sludge generation and disposal costs.

We aim to employ about 160 current County sewer division workers – while remaining sewer division employees will be redeployed to other County jobs. And we will reinforce this staff with 20 other key employees needed to fill the organization.

As the largest P3 of its kind in the US, the Nassau project represents a milestone for us, and our industry, and proves that major infrastructure projects can be delivered by drawing upon the strengths and balancing the needs of multiple sectors. It also demonstrates a model for environmental renewal that can be achieved through multi-stakeholder collaboration.

While it will take some time to make all the improvements we’re planning, in the end, we will create a state-of-the-art, resilient public service which Nassau County can rely upon.

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