People who boat, fish, and swim in Coney Island Creek are demanding the city and state get their s— together and warn people when the water is unsafe — something officials failed to do after discovering a nearby apartment complex was dumping 200,000 gallons of raw sewage a day into the creek in August. Regulators told Community Board 13 on Nov. 1 that they notified people via the state’s phone-and-text–based NY-Alert system, but the message never came down the pipe, according to several locals who are enrolled in the program.
“I’m registered with that system, and I did not get the alert,” said Assemblywoman Pam Harris (D–Coney Island), one of a handful who said they were signed up but never got a precaution about the poop-filled creek.
Under the state’s Sewage Pollution Right to Know law, the city must notify the public within four hours of discovering that untreated sewage is flowing into a body of water. And the city’s Department of Environmental Protection sent out a notice via NY-Alert, officials said. A log on the service’s website only lists warnings less than a month old, so the August warning is not available.
Regardless whether it went out, the system, which requires users to sign up online, is not reaching enough people, and regulators must go straight to local pols and the community board next time the creek is in deep, another Coney Islander said.
“There are people who don’t know to go online and get the app — and many seniors don’t go online,” said environmental activist Pamela Pettyjohn. “Do you realize you’re sitting here with Community Board 13, the councilman, and the assemblywoman? These are the first people that should have been notified, so they could let the public know.”
Workers from the nearby Beach Haven Apartments diverted enough sewage into the creek daily to fill a public pool twice over, officials have said. Regulators don’t know how long the flow lasted before they shut it down — and they won’t say how they’re punishing the apartment complex — but they maintained they did warn locals, while also admitting the situation probably warranted a call to local leaders.
“Though alerts did go out on Aug. 26, it really was incumbent on us — the city — to notify the council member, the community board, and the community, so for that I can only offer an apology,” said Mikelle Adgate, a rep for the Department of Environmental Protection.
Of course, not everyone is so worked up about the spill — fishermen that this paper surveyed last month said they would keep casting into the creek, crap-filled or no.
The city issued week-long warning starting on Nov. 1, because it discovered more homes dumping sewage there, an NY-Alert log shows.
Sign up at www.nyalert.gov/enroll.