As The New York State Marine Education Association (NYSMEA) prepares for a “coastal cleanup” event at Kaiser Park on Saturday, concerns remain over toxic pollution in Coney Island Creek.
The creek has been mired in controversy over alleged illegal dumping, sewage contamination, and littering in and around the water.
Most recently, Councilmember Mark Treyger highlighted possible illegal dumping in the creek, prompting his office to ask the NYC Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) and New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) to investigate.
And, in a recent eight-month study, researchers at Kingsborough Community College found that levels of fecal coliform bacteria in the creek exceeded the EPA standards for swimming, shellfishing, and boating.
Professor Tom Greene, who led students in the study, said in an interview with Coney Island News that the creek is “loaded” with the bacteria.
“We know its significant because we are looking at the long term trend,” he said.
Although the bacteria presents no harm to wildlife, it can cause intestinal problems in humans, Greene said.
The levels of bacteria are driven by the near-landlocked nature of the creek and heavy rainfall, which he said causes runoff from a local sewage treatment plant to spill into the creek.
“On very rainy days, there is a spike in the number of fecal coliform bacteria,” he explained. “We don’t have a more advanced cleaning system that takes care of storm water.”
The researchers tested the water at Kingsborough Community College Beach, Plumb Beach, and Coney Island Creek, and found that Coney Island Creek had by far the highest levels of the bacteria.
The levels were up to 25 times above the EPA standard for swimming and two times above the standard for boating. The EPA’s standard for shellfishing stipulates that fecal coliform bacteria levels should not exceed 14 colones in a 10ml water sample, but the creek regularly registered counts ranging from 2,000 colonies to 3,000, with the most being 5,240.
“Coney Island wastewater treatment plant treats all the sewage from Coney to Sheepshead Bay to Gravesend Bay and Bath Beach area — a huge area of Brooklyn,” Greene explained. “And when they treat the sewage, it comes out of a pipe. When I looked into it a couple years back, one of those pipes comes out in the middle of Jamaica Bay”
Trash can be seen along the edge of the creek, from the waterside at Kaiser Park to the area further west.
Some much-needed relief is coming to the creek this weekend, even if much more work needs to be done.
NYSMEA’s “Coastal Cleanup Day” event will take place at Kaiser Park on Saturday from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m., and this family-friendly cleanup will allow participants to learn about Coney Island Creek and help remove litter along the shore. For more information, click here.