Feb. 10, 2016 By Michael Florio
Following the discovery that sewage from Astoria Park bathrooms had been flowing into the East River for decades, an Astoria legislator is calling on the Department of Environmental Protection to investigate all properties near waterways.
Bathroom waste from the Astoria Park pool and a nearby playground had been flowing into the East River through pipes that were not connected to the City sewage system, Queens Parks Commissioner Dorothy Lewandowski told the Astoria Park Alliance at its meeting last week.
Following that announcement, State Sen. Michael Gianaris sent a letter to DEP Commissioner Emily Lloyd calling the situation “unacceptable and alarming.”
Gianaris, who learned about the issue after Lewandowski spoke of it at the meeting, is requesting that the DEP launch an immediate and comprehensive City-wide review of properties adjacent to waterways to ensure that stray waste is not flowing anywhere else.
“Untold environmental damage has been done to our waterways over several decades due to sewage pumping directly into our waters,” Gianaris said. “Now that this possibility has been discovered, it is critical we ensure similar situations do not exist elsewhere in the City.”
Gianaris is not aware of any other locations suffering from a similar situation, but wants the DEP to take this precautionary measure to ensure that it is not occurring anywhere else.
Lewandowski acknowledged the severity of the Astoria Park issue last week and stated that it had been taken care of.
The Astoria Park pool was built in the 1930s and pipes from the pool, concession stands and neighboring Charybdis Playground had been pumping into the East River ever since.
The Parks Department discovered the issue last spring and worked with the Department of Design and Construction to fix the problem. They were able to obtain an emergency contract last summer, which allowed them to upgrade the pool facility’s septic system immediately.
“That was a big problem and we needed to correct it,” she said at the meeting.
“All the waste from the pool’s toilets now go into tanks, which go into the sewer system,” she added. “They no longer go into the local waterway.”
While the pool waste issue was corrected last summer, the sewer lines from the Charybdis Playground bathrooms are still being repaired.
Those bathrooms will remain closed until 2019. Temporary bathrooms will be provided while the facility is closed.