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Queens Chronicle

Soon-to-open facility to stop dead fish smell

City DEP to finish construction on Howard Beach site within weeks

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Posted: Thursday, January 26, 2012 12:00 pm | Updated: 1:26 pm, Thu Feb 2, 2012.

Say goodbye to those noxious odors that had been coming from Shellbank Basin and wafting through the Howard Beach community during the summer months.

Within the next few weeks, the city Department of Environmental Protection is expected to wrap up construction of a $3.5 million destratification facility on the edge of the basin to eliminate the odors and oxygenate the area’s waters, keeping the crab and fish populations healthy.

For years, residents have complained about the stench wafting from the basin. The odors occur when a sudden drop in temperature allows the basin’s deep water to rise to the surface. Without natural mixing, the water separates into layers, with the sun-heated water at the top and the coolest at the bottom — the phenomenon known as stratification.

The DEP has for the past 10 years been testing a technique called destratification to reverse this process.

Destratification has been used effectively in lakes and reservoirs to vertically mix the water and prevent undesirable conditions from occurring.

The DEP has acquired part of Starbuck’s parking lot at 157-41 Crossbay Blvd., on the west shoreline of Shellbank Basin, upon which it has built the permanent destratification facility. The temporary facility was located at Captain Mike’s Marina parking lot, at 158-35 Crossbay Blvd.

The permanent Shellbank Basin Destratification Facility consists of two electric-powered air compressors, one in operation and one on standby, in a sound-insulated 380-square-foot, 15-foot high building. There are two 1-inch diffuser lines that together extend approximately 2,000 feet longitudinally on the basin floor.

Shellbank Basin is a long, narrow tributary of Jamaica Bay and, as such, does not get a sufficient tidal flow coming in from the bay. When the tide goes in and out, the top layer of water moves while the bottom water remains in the same area.

In the summer the water’s temperature difference gets extreme, and the oxygen level at the bottom dips so low that marine life can’t live or breathe there. When the meteorological conditions are conducive, the bottom water comes to the top and the area smells like rotten eggs.

To address the problem, the DEP launched a Demonstration Destratification Project in Shellbank Basin in May 2000.

The DEP facility bubbles fresh air up from the bottom of the basin using plastic pipes punctured with tiny holes.

A compressor pushes the air through two diffuser lines, each measuring 1,000 feet long. The idea is to keep the water mixing to allow oxygen to reach every depth.

The facility generally runs from June through the end of August.

The DEP has termed the pilot project a success, and it stated that no odor complaints were received from residents living on or near Shellbank Basin during the period of operation.

“The temporary system proved the problem could be addressed successfully,” said Community Board 10 Chairwoman Betty Braton. “With the completion of the permanent destratification system, hopefully the periodic dead fish and odor problems will be no more. All our noses will appreciate that.”

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