Abandoned Barges Threaten Ecosystems Across the Harbor

September 27, 2010

Sinking Barge in Newtown Creek

On our field trip to Newtown Creek I witnessed a few old, rusting barges sitting in the creek seemingly undisturbed by any attempts to get rid of them. With a little bit of research I found out a particular barge spilling out Styrofoam into the creek had been noticed by someone else; The DEC. In early 2008 the DEC issued a violation to Pile Foundation Construction Inc. for abandoning two barges in Jamaica Bay’s Barbadoes Basin. A few years earlier a separate Pile company barge sank in the Hudson by 57th st. and according to reports began “leaking an oily substance into the river” (http://www.nytimes.com/2008/08/05/nyregion/05barges.html). And as it turns out the barge sitting in Newtown creek is yet another Pile barge. The barges have been deemed by many to be both a hazard for navigation and a severe threat to the sensitive harbor ecosystems, most notably the benthic habitat. The owner of the company claimed their barges “cannot sink” normally however he blamed the sinking barges in Jamaica Bay on children cutting holes in the boats Styrofoam.

The Pile foundation was not charged for the barge leaking oil into the Hudson however it was fined $10,000 a day until the removal of the barges in Jamaica Bay.  The reports I found were from early 2008 and as of our trip into Newtown Creek the Pile barge is still sitting in the same spot leaking Styrofoam and slowly collapsing into the basin of the creek. No other more recent information was available on the state of the barges removal. However, city councilmen are working to make the labeling of barges mandatory in order to more clearly identify the companies responsible for abandoning them.

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