Press release: NY State Approves Flawed Plans For New York City’s Massive Sewer Overflows

April 4, 2017

Media Contacts:
Cliff Weathers, Riverkeeper, 845-445-8257,
Laura McMillan, Save the Sound, 203-787-0646 x137,
Kimiko Martinez, Natural Resources Defense Council, 310-434-2344,

NY State Approves Flawed Plans For New York City’s Massive Sewer Overflows

Plans Would Leave Billions of Gallons of Overflows for Decades to Come, Fail to Meet Federal Health Standards

NEW YORK (April 4, 2017) — The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) quietly announced Friday afternoon that three weeks ago it approved long-term plans to address sewage pollution in five New York City waterways. Approvals were issued on March 7, but documentation was made available only yesterday.

The affected waters are Flushing Bay, Flushing Creek and Alley Creek in Queens, and the Bronx and Hutchinson rivers in the Bronx.

Community and environmental organizations have objected strongly to the plans, which the city developed over the last several years. These flawed plans allow huge amounts of raw sewage to continue flowing into City waters for decades to come, endangering New Yorkers who use these coastal waters for recreation and fishing, as well as hindering restoration efforts in Long Island Sound.

Following is a statement from Sean Dixon, staff attorney for Riverkeeper:
“The long-term plans presented inadequately address sewage pollution and will fall short of protecting public health and our affected waters. Large amounts of raw sewage will continue to put New Yorkers — who boat, fish and swim in these coastal waters — at risk for years to come, and will cripple efforts to restore the city’s waterways. New Yorkers deserve real solutions and real safeguards, not plans based on outdated and decades-old environmental and public health standards.”

Following is a statement from Roger Reynolds, legal director for Save the Sound:
“These New York City waters all flow into Long Island Sound and pollute areas where people swim, fish and kayak. The plans fall short and fail to set a course that would finally restore New York City waters, and the communities around them, to health.”

Following is a statement from Julie Welch, program manager for the Storm Water Infrastructure Matters (S.W.I.M.) Coalition:
“Communities throughout the City are fighting for cleaner water and greener neighborhoods. We need partners at the City and the State to join us in setting, and achieving, the right goals: fishable, swimmable waters for all. These plans fall short. We must do better, by combining extensive sewer system improvements with massive deployment of ‘green infrastructure’ — neighborhood amenities like rain gardens and green roofs that absorb storm runoff before it overwhelms our sewers.”

Following is a statement from Larry Levine, a senior attorney with the Natural Resources Defense Council’s water program:
“These plans will leave hundreds of millions of gallons of raw sewage overflowing into each of these bodies of water annually, dozens of times per year, for many decades to come. They guarantee our waters will not meet federal health standards. Eight million New Yorkers deserve better.”

Following is a statement from the Guardians of Flushing Bay:
“We’re disappointed to learn that the Department of Environmental Conservation has approved the plan to use chlorination in Flushing Creek, despite concerns raised by many organizations and partners. Chlorination is a band-aid solution with potential negative human and environmental impacts in a waterway used by hundreds of human-powered boaters.”

Following is a statement from Melanie McGllick, president of Douglas Manor Environmental Association:
“The Alley Creek LTCP falls woefully short of what is needed to improve Little Neck Bay. NYC should focus its energy and resources towards eliminating the Combined Sewer System completely if healthy waterways are truly their goal.”


About the Natural Resources Defense Council
The Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) is an international nonprofit environmental organization with more than 2 million members and online activists. Since 1970, our lawyers, scientists, and other environmental specialists have worked to protect the world’s natural resources, public health, and the environment. NRDC has offices in New York City, Washington, D.C., Los Angeles, San Francisco, Chicago, Bozeman, MT, and Beijing. Visit us at and follow us on Twitter @NRDC.
About Riverkeeper
Riverkeeper is a member-supported watchdog organization dedicated to defending the Hudson River and its tributaries and protecting the drinking water supply of nine million New York City and Hudson Valley residents. Since its beginnings more than 50 years ago, Riverkeeper has helped to establish globally recognized standards for waterway and watershed protection and serves as the model and mentor for the growing Waterkeeper movement that includes more than 300 Keeper programs around the globe.
About Save the Sound
Save the Sound is a bi-state program of Connecticut Fund for the Environment with an established 40-year track record of restoring and protecting the waters and shorelines of the Sound. From its offices in Mamaroneck and New Haven, Save the Sound works for a cleaner, healthier, and more vibrant Long Island Sound where humans and marine life can prosper year-round. Our success is based on scientific knowledge, legal expertise, and thousands of ordinary people teaming up achieve results that benefit our environment for current and future generations.
About Stormwater Infrastructure Matters
Stormwater Infrastructure Matters (SWIM) is a coalition of 100+ member organizations and supporters dedicated to ensuring swimmable and fishable waters around New York City through natural, sustainable stormwater management practices—Green Infrastructure–in our neighborhoods.  Visit us at

2 thoughts on “Press release: NY State Approves Flawed Plans For New York City’s Massive Sewer Overflows

    1. Thanks, Ellen—we agree. We’re discussing options with Riverkeeper, NRDC, and other partners.

      In the meantime, citizens can call NY state legislators and urge support for strong clean water funding to repair broken and deteriorating sewage infrastructure.

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