A long-term project to reduce pollution, odors, floating debris and improve water quality in Flushing Creek and Flushing Bay will be completed by June 2017, the Department of Environmental Protection announced at a meeting on Jan. 19 at the Al Oerter Recreation Center in Flushing.
The DEP’s plan to improve Flushing Bay consists of redirecting low-lying sewers, modifying regulators in sewers, dredging part of the bay and implementing green infrastructure. The estimated cost is $72.5 million.
The project that is expected to improve the water quality is part of an initiative started in 1995. In 2007, the DEP completed construction of a 43-million-gallon Flushing Bay combined sewer overflow holding tank in Flushing Meadows Park. It is located off College Point Boulevard.
The restoration of the soccer fields and the construction of the recreation center adjacent to the fields were funded by the DEP in connection with the CSO project.
The holding tank prevents approximately 56 percent of the average annual sewer overflow volume from entering Flushing Creek.
The proposal for Flushing Creek involves treating waste now held in the combined sewer overflow facility, moving it more efficiently and implementing green infrastructure. The estimated cost for the creek’s project is $388 million and will be finished by 2014.
“This project is amazing,” said James Cervino, a marine biologist from College Point, who was contacted after the meeting. “You’re going to get stormwater treated and sewer water treated, all dealt with at the same time. All this water is now going to be treated instead of being dumped into the Flushing Bay and into the Flushing Creek.”
Growth in population near the Flushing Bay watershed led to a burden on the sewer system, and consequently, the area has experienced a significant increase in the amount of runoff discharged to the bay and creek, according to the DEP.
Virtually no source of freshwater, other than combined sewer overflows, storm water discharges and minimal flow at the head of Flushing Creek, discharge to Flushing Bay, according to the DEP.
“The current quality of water is disgraceful,” said Ana Landron, a member of the Empire Dragon Boat team, who attended the meeting. The team frequently practices along Flushing Bay.
Mark Lanaghan, the DEP assistant commissioner, agreed with Landron that the situation is “far from perfect,” but was optimistic about the future.
“We’d like to be able to improve our sewer system’s ability to retain or detain flow from going into the water,” Lanaghan said.
Landron also said, along with other members of her team, that dead rats float in the water, especially after storms. But, Nate Grove, a manager for the Parks Department, who oversees the World’s Fair Marina which borders the bay, is encouraged by the different fish he has seen in the water recently.
“You’re not going to see an amazing turn of events one year to the next, it’s an incremental approach,” Grove said. “I’ve seen progress; you can see it in the critters that visit us. They come into the bay and it is a sign that they are chasing other animals they can feed on.”