DEP declogs sewers, helps Jamaica Bay

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The city Department of Environmental Protection started its spring cleaning a little early and said it will not only result in less flooding in Springfield Gardens but also improve the Jamaica Bay ecosystem.

The agency announced Monday that it completed its work on the 12.2 miles of sewers under Linden and Springfield boulevards, where there have been several reports of flooding due to clogged storm drains.

For its initiative, DEP crews used Vactor trucks that suck the debris and garbage out of the sewers and transport the rubbish to a waste treatment plant in Manhattan before being shipped to a landfill. DEP Commissioner Cas Holloway said southeast Queens was chosen as the first location for the removal not only because of the complaints from homeowners who had to deal with the flooded streets, but also because of the area’s proximity to Jamaica Bay, where wastewater is discharged.

“We started this effort in Jamaica because we know that localized flooding is a problem for some residents and to protect Jamaica Bay — one of the ecological gems of New York City,” he said in a statement.

The trucks removed more than 1,500 tons of debris from the sewers that were clogging 20 percent of its pipe volume, according to the city agency. Some of the trash included tires, construction materials, large rocks and a 15-foot ladder, the agency said.

In 2001, the DEP installed an 8-foot-by-17-foot storm sewer in Springfield Gardens to deal with heavy floods in the area, but on several occasions, most recently in August, the neighborhood still experienced flooding during severe rain storms due to clogged drains.

Special sonar technology and closed-circuit cameras were used to pinpoint the exact locations of the debris in southeast Queens, the agency said.

The two $450,000 trucks contain a 30-foot hose that is inserted into the sewer through a manhole cover and sucks in the debris after the pipes are flushed by a separate water jet, according to the DEP.

The agency estimates that the cleanup reduced combined sewer overflow, which contains both wastewater and storm water, that goes into Jamaica Bay by 25 percent and will help improve the water quality in the ecosystem.

The bay has lost huge portions of its saltwater marshland due to a high concentration of nitrogen in the water. Four DEP wastewater facilities have been discharging the nitrogen into the bay and the agency has been working to fix the problem through several multimillion-dollar initiatives.

The DEP commissioner said the truck would be cleaning sewers in other parts of the city in the near future.

“Optimizing our existing sewer network is a key part of the NYC Green Infrastructure Plan, which will save New Yorkers more than $2 billion when fully implemented, and will dramatically reduce CSOs,” Holloway said.

Reach reporter Ivan Pereira by e-mail at or by phone at 718-260-4546.

Updated 11:03 am, October 12, 2011
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