By Madina Toure
The City Council passed a bill co-sponsored by City Councilman Rory Lancman (D-Hillcrest) last week requiring the city Department of Environmental Protection to inspect catch basins more frequently to prevent flooding in areas such as Utopia Parkway in Fresh Meadows.
The bill, introduced by Councilman Jumaane Williams (D-Flatbush), requires DEP Commissioner Emily Lloyd to ensure that catch basins are inspected at least once a year. The law will go into effect July 1, 2016.
It also requires basins to be unclogged or repaired within nine days after an inspection or the receipt of a complaint about a clogged or malfunctioning basin.
Despite the fact that the Environmental Protection Agency recommends that catch basins be cleaned once a year, the city examines catch basins only once every three years, Lancman said.
“That’s three times as infrequent as the EPA recommends and so we’re just bringing New York City’s practice up to the best practice of standards of the EPA and hopefully this will contribute to reducing flooding,” he said.
The DEP tends to only react when a complaint is filed, he said.
A number of conditions can cause or contribute to flooding, including extreme weather and climate change, blocked catch-basin grates and surcharged sewers, according to the DEP’s official website.
Catch-basin grates get blocked when rainwater overwhelms streets and sidewalks, pushing debris such as leaves and gum wrappers onto the catch basin where it molds itself into a mat, the website says. The debris ends up blocking the grate and the water pools around the basin, resulting in flooding before the sewer is full.
Lancman noted that flooding occurs frequently on Utopia Parkway, which occurred in 2007, 2008 and 2010.
In December, the DEP announced that it was considering raising manhole covers and installing bioswales to address flooding problems in the area.
“Specifically on Utopia Parkway where the catch basin is in the Hillcrest/Fresh Meadows area and along Utopia Parkway itself, if they get caught, that water’s just going to find its way onto Utopia Parkway,” he said.
Any basins that are not unclogged or repaired within the nine-day time frame would be identified in a semiannual report that Lloyd would be required to submit to Mayor Bill de Blasio and Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito (D-Manhattan).
The first semiannual report would cover the period from July 1, 2016 through Dec. 31, 2016. The report would include the number of basins that are unclogged or repaired, whether the inspection was in response to a complaint and the response time for resolution of any complaint.
Reach reporter Madina Toure by e-mail at mtour