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Photo courtesy of DEP via Flickr
Workers install equipment for capture devices near Newtown Creek.

One of New York City’s most polluted waterways will become much cleaner thanks to the completion of a major sewer upgrade in Queens and Brooklyn.

On Feb. 20, Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) Commissioner Vincent Sapienza announced that a $42 million project to build litter capture devices in the sewer system near Newtown Creek has been completed. The capture devices were installed at four key locations in Long Island City, Maspeth, Bushwick and East Williamsburg where the sewer system can discharge into the creek.

“Cleaning up Newtown Creek is one of our top priorities and this $42 million investment will help to capture trash and debris and ensure that it does not foul the waterway,” Sapienza said in a statement. “As we continue to work to raise public awareness of the problems associated with litter, we look forward to partnering with elected officials, environmental groups and residents on many other projects that will further improve the health of Newtown Creek.”

The in-sewer capture devices include fixed baffles and bending weirs to capture floating litter and direct it to a wastewater treatment plant where it can be removed and sent to a landfill. The DEP installed similar devices along the Bronx River and the Gowanus Canal that have captured more than 500 tons of litter and debris over the past several years.

According to the Environmental Protection Agency, previous samples taken from Newtown Creek have included a variety of hazardous substances like pesticides, metals, polychlorinated biphenyls and volatile organic compounds. In 2010, the creek was added to the National Priorities List and designated as a Superfund site.

Congresswoman Nydia Velazquez, who worked at the federal level to secure the Superfund designation for the creek, said in a statement that she was proud to see the DEP doing its part.

“I look forward to continued cooperation across levels of government to clean up the creek, keep our communities healthy and our streets free from wastewater and debris,” Velazquez said.

Image courtesy of DEP via Flickr

Image courtesy of DEP via Flickr

State Senator Joe Addabbo, a member of the New York State Senate Environmental Conservation Committee, also added in a statement that he was pleased to see the capture devices up and running.

“This $42 million investment will help keep garbage and debris out of Newtown Creek, while protecting our environment by diverting the captured litter to a wastewater treatment plant,” Addabbo said. “I am thrilled to see Newtown Creek’s condition improve even further thanks to efforts such as this.”

A local organization that has been advocating for the restoration of Newtown Creek since 2002 is hoping to continue its work with the new devices in mind.

“Marine debris and plastic pollution is a longstanding problem within Newtown Creek and we applaud this overdue investment by DEP to keep trash out of the waterway,” said Willis Elkins, program manager for the Newtown Creek Alliance. “We look forward to working with the city to monitor the impact of the upgrade and to push for similar improvements on other sewer and stormwater outfalls throughout the creek.”

The Newtown Creek Alliance launched an informational series in January called SUPERFUN/D to help inform and engage the communities surrounding the creek so they can learn about the ongoing efforts to preserve it. The next SUPERFUN/D event will be held in Ridgewood at the Windjammer Bar from 6 to 8 p.m.

Image courtesy of DEP via Flickr

Image courtesy of DEP via Flickr

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