(Image courtesy of Newtown Creek Alliance)

An upcoming public meeting will explain proposed changes to the Citywide & East River/Open Waters Long Term Control Plan by the Department of Environmental Protection, a plan local environmental groups are questioning.

A public meeting is scheduled by the DEP for January 29th, at the CUNY School of Law (2 Court-Square West Auditorium) from 6:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m.

Last year, the NY State Department of Environmental Conservation’s proposed water quality standard changes were also opposed by local environmental groups. A public notice was issued by DEC last October with a proposal to remove “primary contact use” language for Class I waters  in NY, which are meant to “support aquatic life and recreation, and shall be suitable for primary and secondary contact recreation.”

The DEC declared in 2015 that water quality in NY should be suitable for primary contact (swimming, fishing, etc.), which the US Environmental Protection Agency approved along with changing the accompanying bacteria limits to enterococcus bacteria from fecal bacteria.

The website Swimmable NYC points out that Class I waters in NYC include: Hudson River (south of the Bronx), Harlem River, Bronx River (tidal portion), East River, Flushing Bay, Newtown Creek, Gowanus Canal, Coney Island Creek, Jamaica Bay tributaries, Kill van Kull, and Arthur Kill.


A public comment period on the DEC proposal closed earlier this month, and if the new  standards are approved Swimmable NYC warns that the decision could “leave the outdated, decades-old bacteria standards in place — which could significantly set back efforts to strengthen the City’s sewage cleanup plans!”

In addition to the DEC water quality proposal, Swimmable NYC is sounding the alarm on the DEP’s proposal:

CSO discharges from the City’s combined sewer system is the largest ongoing source of pollution in NYC’s waterways. The waters in Citywide plan collectively receive nearly 11 billion gallons of untreated sewage that our wastewater system discharges into these waterways during wet weather every year.

So far, at public meetings last year, DEP presented their water quality testing results for these waters and stewards immediately called them into question for the way they were presenting the results. The results do not at all align with the years of water quality testing conducted by citizen science programs in these waters. Stewards across the city say that DEP appears to be using a number of questionable methods in its water quality analysis that can significantly skew the results and is presenting a rosy picture for these waters that is not accurate


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