DEP plans $33M sewer project to reduce Flushing Bay pollution

Around 1 billion gallons of raw sewage and storm runoff are dumped into a creek near Flushing Bay each year.
THE COURIER/Photo by Eric Jankiewicz

A $33 million sewer upgrade to substantially reduce pollution in the Flushing Bay and Bowery Bay is set to begin this spring, according to the city Department of Environmental Protection (DEP).

The project will prevent an annual total of 225 million gallons of combined sewer overflow from reaching the creek.

Combined sewer overflow — or contaminated water diverted into nearby bodies of water from sewer systems collecting storm runoff, domestic sewage and industrial wastewater — is a major source of contamination in the Flushing Bay.

DEP Acting Commissioner Basil Seggos said investing in clean water infrastructure is vital to improving water quality and beneficial to the economy.

“DEC recognizes the wonderful recreational opportunities that Flushing Bay offers, and optimizing the city’s existing infrastructure is a cost-effective and smart initial investment in Flushing Bay water quality,” Seggos said.

According to the DEP, the city is able to clean all of the wastewater produced in dry weather at treatment facilities, but when the sewer system exceeds capacity during heavy rainstorms, the excess water is diverted into local bodies of water to avoid backups into homes and businesses.

The work will be done on five regulators, or junction points, where wastewater is either directed to a treatment plant or sent to a nearby body of water.

Subsurface work will include relocating some utilities, expanding two of the regulator chamber areas and making structural changes that will direct more polluted water to the Bowery Bay Wastewater Treatment Plant.

The DEP will also build hundreds of curbside gardens throughout the area to collect stormwater from the streets.

Queens Borough President Melinda Katz thanked the DEP for planning the “innovative” sewer upgrade and said it was important to reduce the contaminated water flowing into the bays.

“Our waterways are a precious environmental resource,” Katz said.

Councilman Costa Constantinides — chair of the Council Environmental Protection Committee — also commended the DEP and thanked Commissioner Emily Lloyd for her leadership on this issue.

“Combined with our Green Infrastructure Plan, which implements alternative green infrastructure to capture stormwater before it enters sewers, this project will improve the health of northern Queens waterways,” Constantinides said.

The five regulators set to be upgraded are as follows:

  • LaGuardia Airport Maintenance Yard;
  • Ditmars Boulevard and 100th Street;
  • Ditmars Boulevard and 31st Drive;
  • 108 Street and 43rd Avenue; and
  • 108th Street and Horace Harding Expressway.

There will be no impact to traffic on the Horace Harding Expressway, and work on 108th Street under the Long Island Expressway overpass will only take place during overnight hours to minimize effects on vehicular traffic patterns.