DEP stats are a low blow to Bay Ridge, say residents

January 7, 2013 Denise Romano
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Bay Ridge finds these facts hard to swallow. The city’s Department of Environmental Protection is giving itself a pat on the back for logging in a record low number of water main breaks in 2012, the same year the neighborhood experienced two devastating sinkholes that caused headaches for many residents.

DEP Commissioner Carter Strickland attributed the numbers to “improved maintenance and training in the agency’s Bureau of Water and Sewer operations.”

According to DEP, in 2012, there were 347 breaks citywide, 20 percent fewer than 2011. There was an average of less than six breaks per 100 miles of pipe, which is below the accepted industry average of about 25-35 breaks per 100 miles each year. Since the DEP began a program to improve maintenance in 2007, water main breaks have been reduced by more than 40 percent, the agency says.

“There are nearly 7,000 miles of water mains running under almost every street in the five boroughs and when there is a break or leak residential life is disrupted, transportation networks are hampered, and business can be interrupted,” said Strickland. “By using cutting edge technology and increased preventative maintenance, 2012 saw the lowest number of water main breaks during the last decade and we will continue to focus on driving this number down even further in the coming years.”

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But the numbers don’t mean much to those in Bay Ridge. On June 28, a 70-feet deep sinkhole formed on 92nd Street off of Third Avenue.

Although it was closed up in late October, workers are still replacing the bypass sewer pipes and the street only has temporary paving. Construction is slated to be finished in the spring and neighbors are still dealing with noise, traffic and unpleasant odors.

Another 20-feet-wide sinkhole formed on 79th Street between Fourth and Fifth Avenues on August 1. That location was filled in within a week, but adjacent businesses and homes experienced intermittent disruptions in their water service.

“It’s always good to hear that we have low numbers, but [we are still] dealing with a major infrastructure collapse on 92nd Street,” commented Josephine Beckmann, district manager of Community Board 10. “Residents are still concerned about our infrastructure.”

Fred Muoz lives on 92nd Street, directly across from the sinkhole there. He said that construction has become a six-month long nightmare. “I have seen cars sideswiped and I have seen people lose their mirrors,” he explained. “People park on the sidewalk like they don’t care. If a snow plow came down [the street] he would have a tough time [because] of the way the street is broken up. This was major.”

Ted Timbers, a spokesperson for DEP, told this paper that the Bay Ridge sinkholes were not due to water main breaks, which is what the DEP was referring to in its announcement, but rather sewer main breaks, which were not included.

“The numbers are what they are,” he said.

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