Thousands of fish killed in Flushing Creek by NYC sewage overflows

Councilmember Peter Koo, Riverkeeper, and Guardians of Flushing Bay are having an emergency press conference in response to the mass fish kill-off in Flushing Creek. It is believed that this environmental destruction is caused by the Combined Sewage Overflow (CSO) system used in this area.  You can join in the fight to upgrade this unsafe infrastructure on Friday, August 11, at 2:00PM on the Tidal Gate Bridge in Flushing Meadow Corona Park.  The press conference will demand that the City take meaningful action to reduce CSO in the Creek.

The New York State website describes how a CSO system works.

Combined sewer systems (CSS) are sewer systems that are designed to collect storm water runoff, domestic sewage, and industrial wastewater in the same pipe and bring it to the publicly owned treatment works (POTW) facilities.  During rain events, when storm water enters the sewers, the capacity of the sewer system may be exceeded and the excess water will be discharged directly to a waterbody (rivers, streams, estuaries, and coastal waters).  The untreated water may contain untreated sewage that may impact human health.

When the city of Bremerton, Washington, spent more than $50 million that achieved a 99.9% reduction in CSO events and volume, it made this animation explaining how the CSOs work.  Combined sewers are an outdated technology that need to be upgraded so human and industrial waste are correctly treated to avoid raw sewage being dumped into our waterways.  There are many options on how to decrease or eliminate CSO that New York should use to fix problems like this.  New York State is one of the larger CSO contributors in the United States.

About ten percent of the CSOs in the United States are found in NYS.

About 24 hours after the last CSO discharge from a recent rain storm, CUNY Queens College measured almost zero oxygen in Flushing Creek.  It’s unclear how often or severe these die-off events occur since the ‘average’ dissolved oxygen levels collected do not adequately identify these extreme events.  The City’s current plan to chlorinate rather than capture CSO is not a viable long-term solution.

Flushing Bay and Flushing Creek are actively used areas for recreational boating, fishing, and Dragon Boat practices (though the Dragon Boat Festival this weekend will be held at Meadow Lake).  The Eastern Queens Greenway is working to create a family-safe path from Eastern Queens to Flushing Meadows / Corona Park to connect the community to their parkland and waterways.  We need to start developing Flushing Bay into an area that can be enjoyed by the ever-growing population of Flushing.

Image courtesy of Guardians of Flushing Bay

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