Over one month after thousands of white plastic disks escaped from a sewage treatment plant across the Long Island Sound in Mamaroneck, N.Y., Westchester County has committed to aid in local beach cleanups.
escaped in early March from the Westchester Wastewater Treatment Plant and littered area beaches, including Glen Cove's Crescent Beach.
Westchester County said they will send four men for a total of seven days to Long Island, according to Eric Swenson, executive director of the Hempstead Harbor Protection Committee.
“Over the last couple weeks, I took it upon myself to compile reports of wash-ups and submitted them to Westchester County in an effort to seek their help in cleaning our beaches,” Swenson said. “We are working with them to decide how best to allocate these workers.”
Nearly 22,000 plastic disks were collected in one hour during a Coalition to Save Hempstead Harbor cleanup on April 8.
"The disks are recyclable plastic but there are discussions underway for a more creative use for the plastics discs that were collected," said Glen Cove resident and Coalition to Save Hempstead Harbor board member Corin Basilion.
While the beach cleanup encompassed Tappan Beach in Sea Cliff, Sea Cliff beach, Sea Cliff Yacht club beach, and Morgan's Park and Prybil beach in Glen Cove, Swenson said that he believes hundreds of thousands – if not more than a million – have washed up on beaches as far away as the north fork.
“There is no public health concern,” said Mary Ellen Laurain, a spokesperson for the Nassau County Health Department. Laurain said she received her information both from Westchester health officials and the NY State Dept. of Environmental Conservation.
The disks remove excess nitrogen from the water, helping prevent low-oxygen levels known as hypoxia – a problem the Sound has faced before. But these disks never began their filtering process, escaping when their holding tanks overflowed from heavy rains.
“The plant was being upgraded at the time of the release, and these tanks were not fully operational when the release occurred,” said Caren Halbfinger, the Westchester Health Dept. Director overseeing the spill. “The disks are being isolated to keep this from recurring.”
Editor's Note: Adam Bedell contributed to this story.