BY NATHAN DUKE
The city has announced the completion of a $42 million project to build four subsurface litter-capture devices that will improve the health and aesthetics of the long-polluted Newtown Creek.
Vincent Sapienza, the commissioner of the city’s Department of Environmental Protection (DEP), announced on Tuesday that the project had been completed. He noted that in-sewer control devices at the site include fixed baffles and bending weirs that capture floating litter and direct it to a wastewater treatment plant, where it would be removed and sent to landfill.
“Cleaning up Newtown Creek is one of our top priorities and this $42 million investment will help to recapture trash and debris and ensure that it does not foul the waterway,” Sapienza said.
To prevent litter from reaching the creek, the DEP began installing below-ground capture devices in 2015 at four locations—47th Avenue between 28th and 29th streets, Rust Street and 56th Drive, Troutman Street and Saint Nicholas Avenue and 455 Johnson Ave.—near the waterway.
“Improving Newtown Creek will help produce a cleaner and more sustainable city for the next generation,” said Queens Borough President Melinda Katz. “This upgrade to protect one of our city’s most polluted waterways is an investment in our future and a commitment to solving our city’s pressing environmental concerns.”
The city has been cleaning up the polluted Newtown Creek for 40 years. An oil spill at the site was discovered by a U.S. Coast Guard helicopter patrol in 1978, but is believed to have started anywhere from 60 to more than 100 years ago along the bank of the creek, where Standard Oil once operated an oil refinery. In 1990, ExxonMobil—a predecessor of Standard—entered into two consent orders with the Department of Environmental Conservation to remove petroleum from the ground underneath Greenpoint. Several other oil companies are also responsible for the cleanup of the waterway.
According to the Newtown Creek Alliance, more than one billion gallons of untreated sewage dumps into the creek every year. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency designated the creek as a Superfund site in 2010. A DEP plan to make the creek comply with federal standards of the Clean Water Act is projected to cost $600 million and would be completed by 2042.
Newtown Creek is bordered by Brooklyn and Long Island City.
Reach editor-in-chief Nathan Duke via email at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at (718) 357-7400, ext. 122.