Cleaning Newton Creek Is Actually Poisoning the Air, Study Shows

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  • Flickr/Mitch Waxman

No good deed goes unpunished, and a new study indicates that recent city efforts to aerate Newton Creek (and thus clean up its cartoonishly polluted waters) have actually had the perverse effect of moving all the bacteria into the surrounding air, DNAinfo reports.

Locals and environmental advocates alike are understandably pissed.

“The water is totally disgusting. It’s a white-ish blue green and you’ve got all the telltales of the combined sewer overflow of the neighborhood…condoms, floating dead rats, tons of trash,” said one member of the RiverKeeper alliance. “This is the water they’re bubbling in order to satisfy a regulation. They’re clearly moving water pollution into the air.”

One of the study’s researchers explained, “They need to go into the creek and do a much broader study [of the bacteria entering the air]. If they’re pathogenic they can theoretically cause gastrointestinal illnesses, respiratory illnesses.”

Experts have been warning against the aerating technique for a while now, criticizing it as a short sighted quick-fix solution. Instead, they say, officials should focus on stemming the excess sewage flow into the water and working with more “comprehensive” solutions such as wetland and shellfish restoration.

For their part, city officials point to the billions of dollars spent in the past decade to improve infrastructure, and thus improve issues such as sewage overflows. A Department of Environmental Protection spokesman also said that the clean-up is on track to be completed by 2019, though the new study will be reviewed to determine if any change of course is necessary.

To date, aerating has only taken place in a small area of the creek near English Kills, but plans are still underway to implement it throughout the rest of the waterway.

Can’t they just use that cool new oyster technique instead? The air here is gross enough as it is.

Follow Virginia K. Smith on Twitter @vksmith.