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‘Dam’ it, this water just stinks

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Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) officials made a presentation about an inflatable dam they are installing under Brooklyn’s Inner Harbor, — but members of Community Board 2 wanted to address sewage backup and drainage issues in their neighborhood.

“I live on Front and Gold and when I go down Sand Street, I can smell [sewer odors] even on a day when it doesn’t rain,” said Dianne J. Lewis, a resident of Vinegar Hill.

The DEP has developed its Inner Harbor Combined Sewer Overflow Abatement Program, which is designed to reduce sewage overflow discharged in Downtown Brooklyn during rainstorms, after it was enacted by Local Law 24 in 2005. Improvements to the city’s sewer system, which include the addition of an inflatable dam that will catch polluted water during the first few minutes of a storm, will be made at Gold and Plymouth streets. Construction of the dam will last until the summer of 2009.

“The dams are designed to improve the water bodies in and around New York City by minimizing water flow in these areas,” said Dennis Stafford, a project manager with the DEP. “The sewer is used as a storage tank during a storm. It holds the water back in the sewer system.”

Several residents expressed concerns that when it rains, the sewers, particularly around the Farragut Houses, would get backed up and be overwhelmed. DEP officials insisted that that was a separate issue and was not what they were present to discuss at the community board meeting.

“When it rains for the fist five minutes, that’s the dirtiest part of the storm that we’re trying to capture with the inflatable dam,” said Denzel Taffe, a DEP staff member. “This project is not creating or causing a backup.”

The DEP hopes that by treating the polluted water, the project will help lead to cleaner beaches and waterways around Brooklyn. Several elected officials, including Borough President Marty Markowitz, who has been meeting with the DEP during the planning stages of the project, applauded their efforts to improve the city’s water quality.

“Unfortunat­ely, many Brooklyn neighborhoods such as Vinegar Hill and DUMBO still have combined sanitary and storm water sewers,” Markowitz said. “When it rains, let me tell you, it isn’t pretty. DEP’s techniques such as retention basins, inflatable dams and on-site storm water management plans will help reduce the amount of raw sewage flowing directly into New York Harbor, which is a good thing for Brooklynites and New Yorkers.”

Some community residents remained unsatisfied, though the DEP planned to meet with the Community Board’s Environmental Committee to discuss sewer overflows and odors in the neighborhood. District Manager Robert Perris looked forward to addressing those concerns though possibly after the community board’s summer recess.

“What some people at the meeting night not have understood is that this project is one of several that the DEP is going to do to satisfy a court order,” Perris said. “Clearly, there are people all over the district experiencing backups and the DEP expressed a willingness to address those issues but at another time.”

For more information about Community Board 2, visit

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