Jun 12, 2007

Paerdegat Basin Project Slowly Moving Along

Paerdegat Basin Project Slowly Moving Along
By Dara Mormile

If you’re wondering what those construction trucks and cranes are doing on the Ralph Avenue side of Paerdegat Basin, it’s the giant Combined Sewer Overflow (CSO) project, which was originally supposed to be finished last year. Now they’re saying it will be more like five or six years from now.

The massive Paerdegat Basin Combined Sewer Overflow (CSO) project, originally scheduled to be completed last year, is taking longer than expected. Much longer.

According to officials at New York City’s Department of Environmental Protection (DEP), the completion date is now 2011. Reasons for the delay,, they said, include budgeting, new technology and reassessment of the construction site.

According to Community Board 18’s District Needs and Priorities Fiscal Year 2006 report, which was issued last month, the DEP originally expected the project, which started in 1999, to be finished in 2003. The date was then pushed to 2009 and currently is 2011.

Commenting on the delays, State Senator Carl Kruger, who was chairman of Community Board 18 (CB 18) in 1997 when hearings were held regarding the project, said, "What was once a four-year project has become a twelve-year project."

Conservationists will be pleased to know that the ecology was taken into account, as CSO engineers have planted marsh grass all along the banks of Paerdegat Basin. Photos by Charles Rogers

DEP press secretary Ian Michaels told the Canarsie Courier that new goals have been set for the $270 million project.

"As part of the city’s plan to clean up bodies of water throughout New York Harbor, the CSO will improve water quality in the Basin, comply with NYSDEC water quality standards and maximize the use of existing facilities," Michaels said.

A 2003 DEP press release stated that a new pumping station will reduce chemicals and sediments in the water, improving its quality for recreational boating and fishing, as well as make the Basin environmentally improved.

The first phase of the project consists of reconstructing the pumping station and is now complete, according to DEP spokesperson Natalie Milner. Its total cost is $10 million.

Senator Kruger said, "If I were the DEP, I would be ashamed. This community has been terrorized by everything bad that the DEP can do and the only thing that we’ve been able to see come out of it is a deeper hole that’s gone on for years. Every time we attend a meeting for a presentation, all we find ourselves being told is that it’s going to be another year."

Kruger wants the DEP to deliver a project that will be done on time. "When you’re done telling the community all the wonderful things you’re going to do for us, you should look at it in perspective and see what you haven’t done for us."

The project also includes Bergen Avenue construction, wetland reconstruction, area improvement and a natural area park that will extend from Avenue V through Bergen Beach. Other elements include sewer regulators, which will insure maximum capture of precipitation, dredging the mouth of the Basin and adjacent areas and construction of a 20 million gallon underground retention tank.

Overseeing the project is environmental engineer Ana Walsh of the construction company Hazen & Sawyer. She explained to residents, during a meeting in June, how odor problems would be eliminated, a point about which they had reservations. The existing water has chemicals, like coliform, and dissolved oxygen levels that do not comply with state environmental standards.

Even though water conditions downstream towards Jamaica Bay are better, pollution in the mouth of the Basin stems from storm water and other runoff. Ecologists have addressed beach problems along the shore of the Basin by planting marsh grass areas to strain and thus eliminate pollutants.

CB 18 District Manager Dorothy Turano was given a report from the DEP last year about the five-phase project, which spans from Ralph Avenue to Paerdegat Basin and into Jamaica Bay. She said she is disappointed in the proposed turnaround time for the facility.

"This project will bring clean water and recreational qualities which people will be able to use. When it’s finally done, part of the arrangement is to get an office for Community Board 18. I planned on moving in there before I retire but I don’t think it’s going to happen in my lifetime."

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