Oily discharges into Sheepshead Bay may not be unheard of, but those who work on the water say that the one that occurred on October 10 was exceptional.
“Never before have I smelled it so bad,” said Richard Ardolino, 30. “It’s happened from time to time but definitely nothing like this.”
Ardolino – a member of the maritime family that owns and operates the Atlantis party boat out of Pier 9 – was the first to sound the alarm about the noxious spill that occurred two weeks ago.
“I called it in around 2 p.m.,” Ardolino said. “It smelled the second I came out of the car. I started getting a sore throat from breathing it in.”
According to Ardolino, the oily red discharge that spilled out of the Combined Sewer Outflow (CSO) at Ocean Avenue appeared to be diesel oil that sat about a quarter of an inch on top of the water and quickly spread out across the entire bay.
“The material appeared to have been waste oil, and due to the nature of how the release occurred, it would be difficult to accurately calculate an actual volume,” Department of Conservation (DEC) spokesperson Tom Panzone told the Bay News.
While authorities may not know exactly how much oil fouled Sheepshead Bay, Ardolino says that something should be done to prevent similar events in the future.
“They should put some type of filter on the sewer outlets and monitor it,” he said.
The lifelong boater says that the level of pollution in Sheepshead Bay hasn’t adversely affected business, but that it “definitely is unpleasant.”
“Without a doubt,” Ardolino said. “When people come to look at the boat they smell a lot of dead fish.”
Most of the pollution that slips into Sheepshead Bay, according to Ardolino, comes from roadway debris after it rains.
The New York City Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) used to have a floating containment boom around the CSO at Ocean Avenue to capture any oil that might spill out into the bay.
“From what we understand, other floating items from the sewer discharge also were entrained by this barrier, and the boom became damaged and ineffective,” Panzone said.
Whether or not some type of protection is reinstituted remains to be seen.
“More information is needed to make such a determination,” Panzone said. “DEC has raised for discussion with DEP the question of whether or not it would be advisable to install a permanent boom at that location. This will depend on an evaluation of such factors as the flow rates at the discharge and the frequency of occurrence of petroleum discharges or floatables at the site.”
According to Ardolino, the waters around the Sheepshead Bay Piers afford divers only about three feet of vision at a depth of 10 feet. Visibility is better at the bottom, but it’s full of castoff debris.
“There’s everything that Home Depot would carry down there,” he said.