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Vallone says sirens belong on DEP cars

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"We were in the same rush-hour traffic as everyone else," Sara Pecker, director of communications for the DEP's water and sewer division, said during Community Board 1's cabinet meeting March 10. "It is not an excuse. It is what happened." Vallone said the 50 minutes it took the DEP to drive from Ridgewood to Astoria - a distance of six miles - cost his constituents hundreds of thousands of dollars when Ditmars Boulevard was flooded with nearly a million gallons of water. The flood damaged 50 homes in the vicinity of 70th Avenue, filling basements with water during the two hours it took the DEP to turn off the ruptured 20-inch water main."With every minute of delay, there was another inch of water," Vallone said.Pecker gave the CB 1 board a minute-by-minute account of the department's response during a meeting at Kaufman Astoria Studios, saying it took crews 30 minutes to find the water main valve - which was submerged beneath three feet of water - and another 25 minutes to shut it off. The valve took 63 turns, Pecker said, and several minutes to drain.Even if a DEP crew was standing on the main when it broke, "it still would have taken 20 to 25 minutes" to shut off, she said. In response, Vallone introduced a City Council resolution March 11 calling for the state to allow DEP vehicles to use lights and sirens while responding to a rupture. State law currently only allows sirens during a hazardous material spill. Vallone said the city has some 600 water main breaks a year. Vallone is the second Astoria legislator to come to the aid of flood victims. His fellow Democrats, state Assemblyman Michael Gianaris and state Sen. George Onorato are pushing a bill that would give up to $50,000 in state grants to each homeowner affected by the flood. The bill passed the Assembly Monday and has yet to be heard in the Senate. It would be the second round of grant money made available to residents. Last week Commerce Bank announced it would give $500 to each flood victim. Reach reporter Matthew Monks by e-mail at news@timesledger.com or by phone at 718-229-0300, Ext. 156.

Posted 7:02 pm, October 10, 2011
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