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Nassau Sewage System Privatization Could Flush County’s Future Down The Drain

Mad As Hell: Nassau Legis. Dave Denenberg (above, l), CSEA DPW Unit President Bob Campo and Cedar Creek health risk assessment committee co-chair Phil Franco protest Mangano’s plan Nov. 6.

The vocal and oft-hot-tempered Legis. David Denenberg (D-Merrick), who has been involved in Cedar Creek’s many trials and sparse tribulations both as an environmental attorney and lawmaker for more than two decades, also blasts Mangano’s proposal. He held an investigatory hearing on the plant’s many sins, following a 2005 Press expose, and is currently Team Mangano’s most outspoken critic, recently slamming them for not approving his Spill Bill—a law that would require the county to notify the public whenever there’s a sewage spill or even suspected infraction of environmental laws from any county plant—as well as railroading through the Long Island Bus contract.

The first time he ever got wind of a scheme to privatize the sewage treatment plants, Denenberg tells the Press, was under Mangano’s predecessor Suozzi, who, he says, included it as an long-term fiscal back around 2005. Denenberg says he and the then-Democratic majority demanded it be removed or they wouldn’t approve it. [He adds that Democrats allocated more than $700 million to the plants.]


Denenberg opposes the privatization plan now, just as he did then, for a slew of reasons, not the least of which being the selling of a valuable public asset for a quick, temporary fix and its potentially catastrophic ramifications on the environment.

“The purpose for doing it would be one-shot revenue,” he explains. “But for that one-shot revenue we’re giving up control over a public necessity, sewage, a public necessity—I mean everyone needs to flush the toilet [and] it’s also an environmental necessity. Sewage treatment plants are critical elements of our environment. You need sewage treatment plants so that you don’t have untreated sewage, through septic tanks or otherwise, or cesspools, going into our waterways.

“When the sewage treatment plants are owned by the public, they are subject to public scrutiny,” he continues. “So better or for worse, when they’re operating well, when they’re operating badly, the public has a right to force improvement, the public has the right to go in the plant, to make sure that upgrades are happening. I mean look at what’s going on right now. Most of the upgrades that have happened only happened because the public cried out for it.”

Upon being informed of Veolia’s inclusion in the mix to run the county’s sewers, too, he quips, “Unbelievable…. One way or another, Alfonse D’Amato is going to end up owning Nassau County government again.” Veolia is a client of the former Republican U.S. Senator’s global consulting firm Park Strategies, LLC.

NIFA Director George Marlin has also weighed in on the sewer privatization plan, raising serious considerations that the county and residents should ponder before moving ahead, through postings on his blog Street Corner Conservative.

A Sept. 2 blog post tells readers the initiative “is not a slam dunk” and proposes questions about its approval process, whether the legislature would be willing to approve a deal containing terms conveying to private operators “the authority to impose, to set and, if necessary, to increase residential and commercial usage fees,” among other concerns.

An Oct. 6 statement calls for public discourse on the plan as to whether the proposed sale is good public policy and introduces the frightening idea of a “flush tax” for residents once the sewers are under private control.

“The public should be told how much more it will cost to flush their toilets if there is a sale,” Marlin writes. “There will be a flush fee (a/k/a tax) because sewage costs will no longer be based on property tax assessments and because the buyers of the sewer system will require a profit on their investment.”

But it’s not just Democrats, warring union heads and watchdogs criticizing Mangano’s fast-paced privatization scheme. Academics warn the Press to beware of its potentially crippling effects as well.

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