Sea Gate Beach closed, then reopened after waste spill

The long arm of the city’s sewage reached as far as southernBrooklyn, as a fire last week at the North River WastewaterTreatment Plant in Harlem caused the temporary closing of the SeaGate public beach in Brooklyn, due to waste travelingdownstream.

On the afternoon of July 20, a four-alarm fire broke out in theengine room of the 25-year-old waste treatment facility, causingraw sewage to spill into the Hudson at a rate the New York CityDepartment of Environmental Protection (DEP) estimates at between15 and 25 million gallons a day.

The agency reports that no waste has been leaked into the riversince Saturday afternoon, following a power outage which had haltedrepair efforts. But DEP Press Secretary Michael Saucier says theloss of electricity, prompted by a nearby manhole fire earlySaturday morning, did not severely disrupt repairs.

That was [only] a temporary setback, Saucier said.

But the damage had already been done. On Tuesday, July 26, the DEPannounced the closure of the beach at Sea Gate along with threeStaten Island locations: South Beach, Midland Beach and CedarGrove. Only the Sea Gate beach has been reopened.

Local officials were quickly on the case. When the issue eruptedafter the fire, and the sewage started coming down the river,Chuck Reichenthal, district manager of Community Board 13, andCouncilmember Domenic Recchia met with DEP officials on site,Reichenthal said. At that point the sludge seemed to be going tothe other side of the bay.

However, much to the men’s chagrin, the waste ended up driftinginto the Gravesend Bay side of Sea Gate, where it stayed.

We’re really concerned about the bay side, not the ocean side,Recchia said. That’s where [the sludge] is coming down.

Unfortunately for local residents, the problem was worse thaneither man had hoped, prompting the beach closure and a resultingoutcry from neighborhood residents.

They called every day asking when it would open, said TamiMaldonado, property manager of the Sea Gate Association, which runsthe beach and most government services for the area.

She says the DEP has been a critical resource throughout the week,testing the water and keeping her office informed on a daily basis.Recchia agrees that the agency’s response to the accident and itsresulting pollution was excellent.

The city was acting quickly and safely and were very effective,Recchia said, adding: What more could you ask for?

Maldonado had been optimistic that the beach, which was closed fora total of two days, would reopen by the weekend.

Generally when they close a beach, they close it for two days,she explained. The bacteria have to be at the correct level fortwo days, and then we can open up.

A lifetime Sea Gate resident, Maldonado can’t remember another timewhere the beach at Sea Gate was ever forced to close. Reichenthalagrees that there hasn’t been a similar incident he can recall in18 years on the job. He points out that the beach closures couldn’thave come at a worse time.

It’s sad, but for it to hit on the hottest or one of the hottestdays of the year made it even sadder, Reichenthal said.

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