From: Frank Lombardi, Daily News, New York
Published November 30, 2004 12:00 AM

Water Report: New Yuck!

Nov. 30—While New York harbor and the big rivers are getting cleaner, many smaller local waterways are being used as virtual dumping grounds, a City Council report charged yesterday.

Old tires, spilled motor oil, abandoned cars, crushed stone, scrap metal, cement discharges, raw sewage and assorted noxious "floatables" abound in waterways such as the Bronx River, Coney Island Creek, the Gowanus Canal and Newtown Creek, according to the report.

Prepared with the help of environmental groups and released at a hearing of the Council's Waterfront Committee, the report faulted inadequate enforcement by state and city agencies.

"There are some companies that treat public waterways as their private dumping grounds and there's nobody out there stopping them," said the committee's chairman, Councilman David Yassky (D-Brooklyn).

Yassky's hearing shed little light on what state and city agencies are doing — if anything — to stem the illegal dumping.

The state's Department of Environmental Conservation, which is charged with enforcing clean-water regulations, declined to testify. And while several representatives of Mayor Bloomberg's administration did testify, they did not include anyone from the Department of Environmental Protection, which also has jurisdiction.

After the hearing, Charles Sturcken, a spokesman for the city's DEP, said his agency's clean-water efforts are largely geared to preventing illegal discharges into the city's sewer system and spills of toxic materials and sewage.

Councilman Eric Gioia (D-Queens) said the dumping problem is being compounded by "stonewalling and reluctance to share information" by the agencies responsible for safeguarding those waterways.

"What's happening to our environment is a crime in progress, and not only do we need a better reporting mechanism but we need to have assurance that when we do report it that it's being acted upon," Gioia said.

Yassky recently introduced a bill to increase the maximum fine for waterway dumping violations from $500 to $5,000 a day. The environmental group Riverkeeper called the bill an "important step toward greater control of pollution sources on the city's 578 miles of waterfront."

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