Westchester, Pugsley creeks due for $100 million cleanup

A view of Westchester Creek looking north from the Unionport Bridge shows area budgets more major water quality upgrade.
Photo by Walter Pofeldt

The Friends of Ferry Point Park have a vision of turning two polluted east Bronx creeks into fishing and swimming meccas.

The public will get its chance to join in that dream when the city Department of Environmental Protection holds a public hearing on cleaning up Westchester Creek running through Throggs Neck and Zerega, and Pugsley Creek in Soundview.

May 7 public meeting

The meeting will be Wednesday, May 7 from 6-8 p.m. at Lehman High School on East Tremont Avenue.

The DEP will gather input on how it can best use funding to create a sewer overflow control plan.

“DEP is spending a $100 million to reroute the sewage that overflows into Westchester Creek and Pugsley Creek so that they can meet standards of the Clean Water Act,” said Dotti Poggi, head of the Friends of Ferry Point Park. “All waterways in the city must be brought up to code.”

Clean or super clean

If the community wants the creeks made safe for swimming and edible fishing, then DEP must aim at that goal, said Poggi.

If the community does not, the two waterways will still be cleaned, she said, but only to the minimum mandated by federal law.

The creeks are officially considered unsafe for bathing or fishing, yet Poggi and FFPP vice president Alicia DeCurtis said visitors to Ferry Point Park do both.

“I see quite a few people walk into the water off Ferry Point Park, and I also see many fishermen as well,” said DeCurtis. “It would be great if the water was upgraded to eat the fish and safely swim in the water.”

Community Board 10 district manager Kenneth Kearns said the idea is to try to limit the amount of water and sewage run off during major storms when the city’s 14 sewage treatment plants are at capacity.

DEP plans

A DEP document on the Westchester Creek CSO plan states the agency has committed $100 million, with the following part of the plan:

•Two “flow control structures” near Eastchester Road that, when completed in 2019, should decrease CSO into Westchester Creek by about 64% from 440 million gallons a year to 160 million.

•The “Pugsley Creek Parallel Interceptor” project should stop flow into the creek by 98%.

•About $20 million worth of green infrastructure designed to capture CSO until it can be expelled from the creek.

Jack Reith, 74, one of three generations that have lived and worked near Westchester Creek, noted he has fished, swimmed and boated there.

He was delighted to hear DEP’s plan was going forward, saying the creek was long-overdue for dredging.

Reach Reporter Patrick Rocchio at (718) 742–3393. E-mail him at procchio@cnglocal.com. Follow him on Twitter @patrickfrocchio.

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