Archive for the tag 'sewage'

Photo by PayPaul

When it comes to sewage spilling into our waterways, people might not really want to know – but they should. The New York Daily News is reporting that while sewage plant operators are required to report spills to health authorities right away, many wait for long spells and often give incomplete reports.

When a sewage spill happens, by law, a sewage plant is required to notify the Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) within two hours and the public at large within four hours. Despite this, the Daily News has learned that many spills haven’t been properly reported in a timely fashion:

The agency recently started posting untreated sewage spills on its website to warn the public. The latest report, posted Friday, lists spills — including a 1,000-gallon spill that flowed into Flushing Bay near College Point, Queens — from as far back as May 8.

But most of the entries failed to report the volume of the spills.

A new law passed May 1 requires municipal sewage plant operators to report spills to health officials within two hours and the public within four. But many plant reports are filed late and incomplete, showing “unknown” spill volumes, the Associated Press reported Sunday.

For instance, a spill into Paerdegat Basin in Flatlands, Brooklyn, on June 28, and another into the Harlem River in the Bronx on July 15, failed to report the volume of the spills.

The DEC estimates $36 billion is needed over the next 20 years to repair and upgrade sewer systems at 643 municipal treatment plants in the state.

For those interested, the only two spills reported in Kings County were both at the Red Hook facility in early June – and none at the local Coney Island Wastewater Treatment Plant on Knapp Street. The DEC (and the Daily News, for that matter) does not make it easy to find the reports on their website, but after some prodding they turned up here, as a downloadable spreadsheet.

Recently, New York State received $340 million from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to upgrade and fix the state’s sewage plants, like our own Knapp Street poop factory. The sum given by the EPA is a drop in the bucket compared to the $36 billion needed.

The failure of sewage plant operators to report on spills in a timely and full fashion also adds to the overall growing paranoia over the cleanliness of the beaches and waterways in the local area. Earlier in the month, we reported on a Natural Resources Defense Council study that measured cleanliness of the ocean water at Brighton Beach and Coney Island. The study pointed to the sewage overflow problem which amounts to 30 billion gallons annually in the city.

Chaim Deustch (Source: Twitter)

Chaim Deustsch (Source: Twitter)

As we’ve learned over the past year, storms are very destructive – be they big, small or humongous like Sandy. City Council Candidate Chaim Deutsch (D) is concerned with an annoyance that many residents face after heavy storms, that being sewage back ups.

In a press release, Deutsch was outraged at this common occurrence, blaming the city’s antiquated infrastructure and demanding a solution from the city. Calling for an assessment of both the storm water and sanitary lines in areas like Midwood, Manhattan Beach and Brighton Beach, Deutsch blamed the city for failing to keep up with ever evolving neighborhoods.

“The City has failed to maintain the infrastructure and has ignored population growth in the area,” Deutsch continued, “But so far, the City’s only action has been to clean out the catch basins on street corners. This is unacceptable and does not address the underlying problem.”

Deutsch, noted that people have resorted to using a device called a Back Water Valve, which can prevent sewage can backing up in homes. The device has drawbacks including clogging that needs professional maintenance to keep in working order. Deutsch was adamant in hoping to relieve residents of their sewage problems.

“It is time for our residents to spend their valuable time focusing on more important issues rather than watching their sewers,” Deutsch said in the release.

Source: wheany/Flickr

Source: wheany/Flickr

I have already visited the beach at Coney Island many times this year and what has struck me the most is how much cleaner it appears to be than in years past. Previous to my many sojourns to the shore this year, I had last been two summers ago and my striking memory was how gross it was. Garbage littered the sands and the ocean. The experience was so bad that it kept me away for a long time.

But the question remains, how clean is the beach exactly? Well, Gothamist recently reported on a Natural Resources Defense Council study that yielded surprising (or unsurprising, depending on your level of cynicism) results about the beaches at Coney Island and Brighton Beach.

In the study, beaches across America are graded on a five-star scale, and the beaches between Brighton 6th Street and Ocean Parkway, and Ocean Parkway to West 8th Street - the area most people except scientists, apparently, refer to as Brighton Beach - received four stars , though this scoring was not uniform as you can see in the chart below.



In examining the numbers, the good news is tempered by stretches of the beach where the percentage of water samples exceeding national standards for cleanliness has increased over the past three years. Those areas? Coney Island.

Beaches cannot have more than three stars if they exceed five percent of the national average, which is the case from West 8th Street, heading west. If you’ve got a phobia of particle matter that may or may not be human waste or manufacturing waste or some other waste… your best bet is to stick to the four star areas between Brighton 6th and Ocean Parkway.

The biggest cause of pollution comes from sewage overflow. According to Gothamist, New York City experiences 30 billion gallons of sewage spillover each year. Superstorm Sandy accounted for five billion gallons of sewage spillover when it trashed the city late last October.

While that news is disgusting, Brighton Beach is still your best bet for summer ocean swimming as it was the highest ranked of all New York beaches with the ‘good stretch’ of it being no more polluted than any other beach in America. As for Coney Island, well, it could be worse – but, hey, this still ain’t bad compared to we might imagine water conditions to be after all of Southern Brooklyn’s trash and street chemicals washed into it in October.

For those wondering, by the way, there was no accounting for Manhattan Beach in the report.

Where do you prefer to take in some sun and brave the waters?

Mark Treyger (Source: Assemblyman Bill Colton’s office)

New York State received $340 million dollars from the federal Environmental Protection Agency last week to upgrade sewage and drinking water plants to protect against future storms like Superstorm Sandy. Local City Council candidate Mark Treyger, running for the 47th District covering Coney Island and Gravesend, is calling on the state to steer those funds to the Coney Island Sewage Treatment Plant on Knapp Street, saying it needs it the most.

Of the $340 million, most of it – $283 million – is earmarked specifically for sewage plants. The funds are part of a the Sandy emergency relief package approved by Congress at the beginning of the year, and are aimed at making upgrades that would keep raw sewage contained instead of discharging into public waterways – as is the case during heavy rainfalls when the plants’ tanks overfill.

Treyger said in a press release that the local plant should be a high-priority for the state because of its vulnerable location and its trouble grappling with Superstorm Sandy. The press release said:

“Coney Island was one of many New York communities devastated by Hurricane Sandy. During, and in the immediate aftermath of the storm, people who were unable to evacuate, as well as those who quickly returned to their homes, did not have access to clean drinking water or reliable sanitation services,” said Treyger.

The Coney Island Waste Water Treatment Plant, located on Knapp Street, was hit with a cascade of problems during Hurricane Sandy. Water from Shell Bank Creek came over the bulkheads and flooded the building. Flood debris clogged vital parts of the plant and power was lost and to make matters worse. To compound the problems a 72 inch outfall pipe had been previously shut down for repairs.

“Our part of coastal south Brooklyn – not just New York and America’s playground – is particularly vulnerable to future natural disasters. In the event that another storm, of similar or even greater magnitude to Sandy, hits our area, we must be prepared. I strongly urge New York to use the money given to us by the Environmental Protection Agency to, among other critical projects, expedite desperately needed sewer upgrades in Coney Island.”

But the state says that the $283 million, which will be dispersed to municipalities throughout the state, is but a drop in the bucket to make the repairs needed. EPA officials are directing municipalities to request additional funds via grants from the Department of Housing and Urban Development and FEMA.

Representatives from the Department of Environmental Protection, which oversees the city’s sewage treatment plants, told Sheepshead Bites that the Knapp Street plant was just one of many that took damage. They said 10 of the city’s 14 sewage treatment had some degree of damage and service issues, but they were all at 100 percent functionality as of February 10. They added that the funds from the EPA are being coordinated through the state’s Department of Environmental Conservation, and that the DEP had not yet received details about the allocation.

The New York City Department of Environmental Protection shut down Jerome Avenue between East 17th Street and East 18th Street today, as crews worked to repair a broken sewage line.

The line backed up, according to a worker on the scene, spurring them to open the fire hydrant and empty the pipes. The street is covered with water and “heavy grease,” according to the DEP worker.

Repairs should be completed and the roadway opened by approximately 5:00 p.m.

Source: Environmental Protection Agency via Wikimedia Commons

Last Thursday marks the adoption of a bill that would force plant operators to tell the public if and when municipal sewage is spilled into New York’s bodies of water.

This is great news for Sheepshead Bay and the surrounding areas as this coastal community with five nearby beaches is especially susceptible to sewage spillovers.

The Senate voted in favor of the The Sewage Pollution Right to Know Act. It was part of a larger environmental package of bills called the Earth Day Package.

The measure states that sewage plant operators will have to notify local health departments within four hours of the waste release, as well as issue a public news release letting the public know when raw or partially treated sewage is discharged into New York waters.

It is the hope of environmental groups who worked on the bill that the public would receive water quality notifications through the press similar to the ozone, pollen and severe weather warnings.

Assemblyman Bob Sweeney said the measure will give people a choice to “avoid unnecessary exposure to harmful sewage pollution,” according to a media release.

The federal EPA estimates that between 1.8 million and 3.5 million Americans become ill annually from contact with sewage in recreational waters.

The bill still requires a signature from Governor Andrew Cuomo before becoming a law.

Once the notification system is in place, you can bet Sheepshead Bites will be broadcasting alerts about any such discharges locally.


“Bullet Points” is our new format for Community Board 15 meeting coverage, providing takeaways we think are important. Information in Bullet Points is meant only to be a quick summary, and some issues may be more deeply explored in future articles.

Boardmembers push to beautify Manhattan Beach, oppose aesthetic improvements at Knapp Street sewage plant: Parks Department’s Brooklyn Chief of Staff Martin Maher came before the Board last night to provide the community with updates on ongoing projects in the district – including at Bill Brown Park, Galapo Playground, Brigham Street Park and Emmons Avenue – but the presentation quickly turned to Manhattan Beach as members barraged Maher with questions and complaints (video above).

Continue Reading »

Photo by Michael Comeau

The Army Corps of Engineers is gearing up to take on an 18-month long project to repair and improve sewage outfall pipes at the mouth of Sheepshead Bay, but first they’re looking for your input.

The Department of Environmental Protection is coordinating with the Corps on the project, and will give a presentation at Community Board 15 tomorrow night. The public hearing will take place at Kingsborough Community College’s faculty dining room at 7:00 p.m. (2001 Oriental Boulevard). (UPDATED)

The maintenance project involves work on two existing outfall pipes leading past the mouth of Sheepshead Bay from Plumb Beach, and into Rockaway inlet. One of the pipes currently suffers from a leak at a joint, and both are being worked on to upgrade the infrastructure.

There will be some dredging as workers excavate about 5,300 cubic yards of fill, and as work winds up gravel will be dumped as bedding. When the work is done, the footprint of the pipeline won’t be much different from what currently exists.

The Corps has also determined that the project will not have a major impact on aquatic life, as the “fish populations would avoid the small area of disturbance.”

You can weigh in on the project at tomorrow’s hearing, or by mailing the US Army Corps of Engineers – New York District at:

Jacob K Javits Federal Building
New York, N.Y. 10278-0090
ATTN: Regulatory Branch

CORRECTION: The original version of this article stated the meeting time was 7:30 p.m. That is incorrect – the meeting is at 7:00 p.m. We apologize for any confusion this may have caused.

I woke up this morning because of a bad smell. At first, I thought it was the McDonald’s I had for dinner making a revenge, and I was berating myself for giving in and taking my quarterly pilgrimage to the gut-busting fast foodie. But then I checked my e-mail and found the following note from Randy C., and realized I could start blaming something not related to my colon:

there is a smell, with people reporting it from marine park [ brown and ave R] to me at East 21st and ave U, to east 13th and z. it doesnt smell like sewage, but just a bad smell… have you heard anything about this?

Well, does anyone know anything?

When I passed by Corbin Place last week, I found a major project underway with the entire center of the street torn up. From Brighton Beach Avenue to Brighton 15th Street, a 10-foot-deep-or-so gash snakes through the asphalt. At its bottom are pipes.

But on that Thursday afternoon, not a single worker was in sight. Nor a van or truck with identification claiming jurisdiction over the project. I called Community Board 15 to try and learn more. But though the board is routinely notified when utility projects kick-off in the area, Corbin Place is the dividing line between us and Community Board 13. The board wasn’t notified, and they could only guess that it might be a sewage project.

Days later, I ran into a National Grid employee on another work site. I asked him if he knew. He looked confused, shrugged, then said, “Yeah, I think it’s gas. There’s a big gas thing going on around Corbin.” He didn’t sound so sure either. More like he just wanted me to go away (and who can blame him?).

So… has anyone seen a labeled van or a work crew at this site?