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City to trap plastic cups, grocery bags

Ever seen a beer bottle or toilet paper roll drifting down the Bronx River?

The city Department of Environmental Protection will skim litter from the river and install nets and screens at three sewer sites starting this summer.

The project will help bring NYC’s combined sewer system into compliance with a 1992 state consent order and will target “floatables” – street debris washed into storm drains during heavy rain. Floatables pollute the river and clog sewage tanks in Hunts Point.

“We’re cleaning up,” said DEP spokeswoman Mercedes Padilla. “We’re working to keep garbage out of the Bronx River.”

Two of the three sites scheduled for work are in Community District 6. Starting in July, DEP will install nets at a sewer overflow outfall near West Farms Road and the Sheridan Expressway, just south of the Cross Bronx Expressway.

According to Padilla, the job will take all summer. Workers will dig through a school playground and block a section of West Farms Road. CB6 district manager Ivine Galarza has met with DEP representatives and P.S. 214’s principal.

“The kids won’t be in school,” Galarza said. “This project has to be done.”

Then DEP will install screens at an overflow outfall inside the Bronx Zoo and under Bronx Park Avenue off E. 177th Street. The job will close down a section of Bronx Park Avenue to motorists for about eight months.

Finally, DEP will repair a sewer conduit in Community District 9, at an overflow outfall on the Bronx River in Soundview Park just west of a composting facility.

Padilla and Galarza expect the entire project to last at least two years. DEP targeted the West Farms, Bronx Park Avenue and Soundview sites based on floatables data. No outfalls dump more litter into the Bronx River.

Jorge Santiago of the Bronx Council for Environmental Quality is a cautious critic of DEP’s litter control plan. He doubts that coffee cups and plastic bags are responsible for the Hunts Point clogging.

“I don’t buy it,” Santiago said. “That floatables are displacing so much sewage. I don’t think floatables are making an impact in the tanks.”

Maggie Greenfield of the Bronx River Alliance, a Parks Department affiliate, supports the project.

“We think this is helpful,” Greenfield said. “Floatables are a considerable problem for the Bronx River. They aren’t pretty, nobody likes to pick them up and they cause a hazard to marine wildlife. We must cut down on littering.”

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