2017-08-16 / Political Page

Koo, Advocates Urge: ‘Capture, Don’t Chlorinate! ’

After thousands of dead fish were found in Flushing Creek earlier this week, NYC Councilman Peter Koo and environmental advocates called on the city and state to withdraw and revise plans to chlorinate combined sewage overflows (CSOs) in Flushing’s waterways.

This past week, staff at the environmental watchdog group, Riverkeeper, filmed massive outfalls flowing directly into the bay and creek, and discovered thousands of dead fish floating throughout the creek.

Advocates rallied on August 13 to call on the city and state to withdraw and revise their plans to chlorinate in the Flushing Creek, and urged them to build new infrastructure to capture runoff so that it can be treated properly before being dumped into the natural environment.

CM Koo stated, “Today we are calling on the city and state to capture combined sewage overflows, don’t chlorinate! If thousands of fish are dying today before chlorination even begins, imagine how much worse it will be once this misguided ‘solution’ is put into practice. Chlorine is what you put in your swimming pool to kill bacteria, not what you put into a tidal estuary full of precious marine life.

“In this city of water, decades of neglect have left our local waterways dangerously degraded. Burdened by billions of gallons of combined sewage discharges every year, and bounded by crumbling waterfronts and neglected wetlands, New York City’s ‘sixth borough’ is the limiting factor for community, public, and environmental health,” said Sean Dixon, Staff Attorney at Riverkeeper. “The city Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) has made strong steps toward a clean water future in recent years – citywide. Action is needed now to protect and restore the Flushing Waterways; chlorination is not the answer for Flushing Creek and 15 years of delayed CSO tunnel construction is not the answer in Flushing Bay. Before our community can grow, we need to break ground on new CSO capture projects, and we need to ensure that those projects capture – not chlorinate – these sources of pollution.”

James Cervino, marine and immunology scientist, stated, “Due to the lack of marine biologists and chemical oceanographers reviewing the DEP and state Department of Environmental Conservation (NYSDEC) Long Term Control Plan, this will be the example of what is yet to come once this plan is implemented. As development increases and the capacity for the treatment facilities is exceeded, the result will be serious food chain contamination as a direct result of sewage nutrients and chlorine byproducts getting into the water. Due to increased coastal sewage and chemical pollution, virtually every coastal area, including Great South Bay Long Island, and around the world, is being affected by harmful algal blooms (HABs, commonly called “red tides or brown tides”). The steady release of sewage nutrients, expansion in the use of fertilizers for agricultural production represents a large and worrisome source of nutrients in coastal waters that promote some HABs. These phenomena are caused by blooms of microscopic algae. Some of these algae are toxic, and can lead to illness and death in humans, fish, seabirds, marine mammals, and other oceanic life, typically as a result of the transfer of toxins through the food web. Sometimes the direct release of toxic compounds can be lethal to marine animals. NOAA and its academic partners are collaborating to provide experimental forecasts of the probability of Pseudo-nitzschia blooms and elevated domoic acid levels along the California coast.”

Friends of Flushing Creek Project Consultant Alexandra Rosa, stated, “Its long past time to address the environmental and community impact of using Flushing Creek as an open sewer. Virtually every time it rains contaminated storm water and raw sewage are dumped into the creek. Friends of Flushing Creek, the local community and our environmental organization partners have all objected to the city’s plan to continue this practice. We stand together with Councilmember Peter Koo to ensure that the continued assault on this waterbody ends. We know that Flushing Creek could hold great potential for recreation and community uses. It’s time to secure that vision.”

“Hundreds of dragon boaters use Flushing Bay every summer, despite the billions of gallons of sewage and stormwater polluting both the bay and creek, bringing litter, oils and dead rats with the runoff. The thousands of dead fish washing up on the shores is a clear sign that Flushing Bay and Flushing Creek are not fit for recreation or sustaining wildlife,” said Korin Tangtrakul, Coordinator for Guardians of Flushing Bay. ”The NYC Department of Environmental Protection needs to act now to bring us a better plan to manage sewage overflows in the creek. We need to capture, not chlorinate, CSO! We thank Councilmember Peter Koo for his leadership on this issue, and Riverkeeper for their important documentation of the poor state of Flushing Creek.”

CSOs occur when sewer capacity becomes overwhelmed by heavy rainfall and storm water and untreated wastewater dump directly into the surrounding waterways. Earlier this year, the NYS DEC approved the NYC DEP’s long-term control plans for the Flushing Creek and Flushing Bay. The plans were considered and approved separately, even though the two water bodies flow into each other. For the Flushing Creek, plans call for the chlorination of CSOs in order to disinfect the water. In the Flushing Bay, plans call for the construction of a new tunnel.

In 2009, the city completed construction of a 43 million gallon CSO tank in Flushing, however, even this significant piece of infrastructure quickly becomes overburdened with heavy rains. The resulting outfalls create a noticeably rancid smell throughout communities. In November, 2016, CM Koo asked the DEP to reevaluate its plans for the Flushing Creek before moving forward with the Flushing Bay Long Term Control Plan (LTCP). Nonetheless, both plans were approved in March 2017.

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