Coney Island Creek by Cropsey Avenue is the city’s most fecal-filled waterway, according to one number-crunching analyst.
Ben Wellington, a statistics professor at Pratt Institute who runs the I Quant NY blog, pulled Department of Environmental Protection water sampling data on fecal coliform around New York City. The results? The beaches along the Coney Island peninsula are clean, at least compared to the city’s crappiest waterway – the Coney Island Creek.
Fecal coliform is bacteria that forms in mammalian intestines, and is an indicator of raw sewage in the water. It gets there when storms push so much water into the sewer drains and overwhelms the sewage system, causing the DEP to release it untreated into the rivers, oceans, bays and creeks through Combined Sewer Outflows. When the beach is closed during the summer, it’s usually because there’s an unsafe amount of sewage in the water – an amount of more than 1,000 coliform per 100ml of water.
Wellington dumped all that data into a spreadsheet and began calculating the mean, minimum, median and max levels of fecal coliform at all testing sites around the city, going back to 2008. The indicator he used to determine his top 10 dirtiest locations is the percent of days sampled that were too dirty to swim.
On that top 10 list are four Southern Brooklyn locations: Coney Island Creek at Cropsey Avenue, Coney Island Creek at its entrance, the head of Bergen Basin, near JFK airport, and the mouth of Bergen Basin.
The average amount of fecal coliform in the water at the creek when tested? It was more than 37 times the amount deemed unsafe for swimming, and it was found to be unsafe 94 percent of the times it was tested. Ugh.
Wellington mapped out his results to show us the ring of shit that encircles New York City:
I mapped the percentage of time that water levels were unsafe for swimming. Larger circles indicate a higher percentage of unsafe days, and thus dirtier water. Clicking on a circle gives you fuller details for that site.
Note that the larger circles appear more inland. The conclusion? If you are going to swim in NYC, i guess the rule of thumb is to stay away from anything with the word “creek” in its name (and of course “canal”) and head toward the rivers.