2003-11-28 / Front Page

Port Authority: JFK Not To Blame For Bay Problems

By Brian Magoolaghan
Port Authority: JFK Not To Blame For Bay Problems By Brian Magoolaghan


Assemblywoman Audrey Pheffer, left, listens as the Jamaica Bay Guardian Don Riepe gives his testimony. Eco Watchers founder Dan Mundy, seated next to Riepe, and John Fazio, right, the chairman of the Gateway Park Commission for Community Board 10 (Howard Beach) also gave testimony.Assemblywoman Audrey Pheffer, left, listens as the Jamaica Bay Guardian Don Riepe gives his testimony. Eco Watchers founder Dan Mundy, seated next to Riepe, and John Fazio, right, the chairman of the Gateway Park Commission for Community Board 10 (Howard Beach) also gave testimony.

A Port Authority big dog is biting mad over the recent suggestion that John F. Kennedy Airport is the cause of Jamaica Bay’s marsh woes.

The agency was singled out as a possible cause of "environmental damage," by Assemblyman Thomas P. DiNapoli, chairman of the Committee on Environmental Conservation, in the announcement for last Friday’s meeting on Jamaica Bay issues.

"I’d like to say at the outset – and for the record – that there are numerous other more plausible causes of marsh loss being considered and actively investigated by the scientific committee," said PA Aviation Department Environmental Services Supervisor Ed Kroesel at the bay issues meeting held in the Kingsborough Community College Marine and Academic Center rotunda.

DiNapoli, however, is not alone in charging the PA with causing the bay’s problems.


The Port Authority’s Ed Kroesel reads his testimony.The Port Authority’s Ed Kroesel reads his testimony.

Local environmental leader Dan Mundy said that the PA is "on the offensive," and doesn’t want to be found responsible after years of abusing the bay. Mundy’s group, Eco Watchers, said contaminants from the airport and water treatment plants combined with sea level rise, are most likely what is killing the marsh at the rate of nearly 45 acres a year since 1994.

Other possible causes for this alarming decline of marsh grass are: man made changes to the bay, including bulk-heading and dredging; sea rise; boat wakes; water treatment plants; mussels and sea lettuce choking the marsh beds, and waterfowl, which eat marsh grass. Several of those causes were cited in a Department of Environmental Protection study reported in The Wave in late September.

Kroesel said the PA is operating within the guidelines set by the Department of Environmental Protection and the Department of Environmental Conservation, and that it is looking into new technology that would significantly reduce the amount of airplane de-icer that can find its way into the bay. He also pointed to a U.S. Geological Survey that said JoCo Marsh, which is the closest to the airport, is the "most stable" marsh in the bay. But Mundy said that while the use of ethylene or propylene glycol as deicers is permitted, those chemicals may be harmful to the environment, and that JoCo Marsh is thriving because it is at a higher elevation, and has good drainage.

JFK employs nine environmental maintenance specialists, and its discharge from 24 outfalls is monitored twice daily, said Kroesel. But Mundy said that water, while monitored, is not treated.

Meanwhile, the verdict is still out on Jamaica Bay’s borrow pits, which were created when parts of the bay were dredged to make JFK. There was talk two years ago that they would be filled in with contaminated sediment dredged from other areas, but a study is now being done to see if there are living creatures at the bottom of the pits.

"If there’s life on the bottom of the borrow pits, they probably won’t touch them," said Assemblywoman Audrey Pheffer, who is also on the Committee on Environmental Conservation. The Army Corps of Engineer study on of the pits is due next fall, Pheffer said, and there will be more public forums at that point.

Although the vast amount of the information shared with the committee was not new, the meeting was important because it gets the agencies with ties to the bay on the record, Pheffer said. Their written testimony, sound recording, and transcripts can be used in court if that becomes necessary, Pheffer said.

The DEP, DEC, Gateway National Recreation Area, Jamaica Bay Eco Watchers, and others presented testimony at the KCC rotunda, which has a breathtaking view of the bay and Rockaway. Congressman Anthony Weiner, who has secured funds for an ongoing investigation into the bay problems, submitted a brief letter.


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