Tuesday, June 13, 2006

"Pollution plan may flush Yanks’ park" NY Metro 06/13/06

Pollution plan may flush Yanks’ park

by patrick arden / metro new york

JUN 13, 2006

SOUTH BRONX — The proposed new Yankee Stadium project could face another unforeseen hurdle when the city applies for a stormwater-discharge permit before beginning construction, warns Karen Argenti, the former chairperson of Bronx Community Board 7. “Once they ask for that permit, there should be a public review process under the state’s Environmental Justice and Permitting law,” she said.

Environmental concerns over stormwater discharged into the Harlem River could lead to a new public hearing on the proposed Yankee Stadium. (Photo: Bill Lyons/Metro)

In low-income communities like here — which also have a mostly “minority population” — the law “requires applicants for permits covered by the policy to actively seek public participation,” providing documents to community residents in Spanish as well as English. One of the permits cited is the “state pollutant discharge elimination system,” or SPDES permit. According to the Yankee Stadium Final Environmental Impact Statement, the city will require a “SPDES general permit for stormwater discharges associated with construction activities.”

Environmental concerns

The FEIS claims a similar permit won’t be required for the finished stadium, which will use existing sewers and “stormwater detention” tanks to handle excess rainwater, or for the waterfront replacement-parkland parcel, where water “may discharge directly into the Harlem River.”

“The community should get a chance to comment on whether this project should be allowed to discharge into the Harlem River,” said Argenti.

Argenti had educated herself on the adverse impact of stormwater when the city decided to build a water-filtration plant in Van Cortlandt Park.

She was approached this year by Highbridge residents concerned about the Yankee Stadium plan, so she read the FEIS. By taking away parkland and replacing it with artificial surfaces, she figured, the amount of rainwater would increase, overburdening the city’s outdated and overtaxed sewer system.

But the document dismisses such fears: “Potential adverse effects to water quality resulting from the discharge of stormwater ... would be minimized through implementation of a Stormwater Pollution Prevention Plan.”

Argenti has tried to get her hands on that plan.

She approached Stephen Venezia of the Environmental Protection Agency. “They’re required to have a stormwater plan,” said Venezia. But he hasn’t seen it. “Any construction of over an acre is required to follow [minimum federal] stormwater regulations,” he said. New York State is authorized to run the program, but the EPA still oversees it. At Argenti’s behest, Venezia is trying to get a copy of the stormwater plan. “I would think the state [Dept. of Environmental Conservation] would have it.”

But DEC spokesperson Maureen Wren hasn’t seen the plan either. “Generally speaking a discharge into a water body would require a SPDES permit,” she said, “though there are exceptions.”

‘Moving things around’

Janel Patterson, a spokesperson for the Economic Development Corporation, said the city hasn’t applied for the permit yet, and it’s still tinkering with the project’s stormwater plan.

“I’ve been told we’re still moving things around,” she said. She referred to chapter 12 of the FEIS, which reads, “The volume of stormwater from the proposed project would not have a significant adverse impact on the Harlem River or on the City’s combined sewer system.”

“I’m not an engineer, but the city already has a serious problem on its hands with its ancient combined sewer system,” said Basil Seggos, a legal investigator with the environmental group Riverkeeper. “It seems what they’re proposing will increase the amount of stormwater that’s being discharged into the river.”

Call to the bullpen

• The Yankees have hired two high-powered lobbyists to get their parkland-replacement plan approved by the National Park Service, the Washington Post reported last week. Former Republican Rep. Bill Paxon (the husband of ex-Rep. Susan Molinari) and former Interior Department official Michael G. Rossetti recently registered to lobby for “federal approvals necessary to complete stadium relocation."


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