A river of black sludge flowing into Gravesend Bay is grossing locals out, but the city says it could be a lot worse.
The yucky-looking muck is the by-product of a sewer-cleaning operation at W. 33rd Street and Bay View Avenue in Coney Island that is meant to prevent flooding in the area during storms.
The city says it’s following environmental guidelines, but at least some locals fear the repellent runoff is harming the bay.
“I don’t know how on God’s earth that meets any guidelines,” said Pete Castro, who lives in Coney Island. “Pure black-as-black water is being poured into the bay.”
But the runoff is minimal, according to a Department of Environmental Protection spokeswoman, who claimed the debris and most of the potential pollutants are being carted away to landfills.
“[The State Department of Environmental Conservation] and DEP are working to minimize impact on the bay at all costs,” said Department of Environmental Protection spokeswoman Mercedes Padilla.
After complaints that adjacent sections of Coney Island were flooding during rainstorms, the city sent “vactor trucks” — a combination garbage truck and industrial vacuum — to clean out catch basins where debris and muck accumulate just before the water passes the bulkhead to enter the bay through sewer outfall pipes, Padilla said. The trucks suck out the trash and muck, allowing stormwater runoff to flow more freely.
But as the clog is cleared, some funky water that had been held back, steeping for years in mud and garbage, is inevitably set loose and has been flowing into the bay — sometimes at a trickle and other times in a steady flow, depending on how much water is entering nearby storm sewers at that time, according to Padilla.
The city has not tested the ooze, but Padilla said it contains the same sediment as typical street water runoff. Such runoff can harbor pesticides, fertilizer, and motor oil, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.
The bay was once home to the Southwest Brooklyn incinerator, and now the city is planning to build a controversial waste-transfer station across the water in Bath Beach.
The outfall-cleaning project has been underway for about a week and is expected to take a few more days to complete, Padilla said.
But Castro said the flow needs to go — now.
“It’s shocking that DEP is standing around allowing these guys to do this,” he said.