What to Know
- Neighbors on Bruckner Boulevard in the Bronx say a catch basin on the street keeps clogging, bringing up a river of trash and storm water
- The problem has been recurring since Sandy in 2012, and 311 calls haven't helped; even a private contractor couldn't resolve it long-term
- The stench is so overwhelming when the catch basin clogs that customers admit they're now avoiding businesses in the area
Stormwater backups have been sending disgusting debris spewing onto a street in the Bronx for years, the most recent one on Wednesday bringing an especially overwhelming stench, according to fed-up neighbors.
The river started bubbling up from a catch basin on Bruckner Boulevard and began flowing into the street Wednesday morning, neighbors said.
"It's a really bad smell coming from the sewer," said Rosa Garcia, owner of the Mott Haven Bar and Grill at 1 Bruckner Blvd. "It's not coming from anywhere else, and it's not good for the customers coming in, and it's not healthy for anybody who has to smell it."
Bill Bollinger, a developer in the area, described the debris as "sewage garbage," but said it's hard to tell exactly what it is.
"It smells like there's been a garbage strike and they have not picked up the garbage for three weeks, that's what it smells like," he said.
The DEP says the trash filling the catch basin is stormwater and street-level debris, and nothing that's coming from underground. The sewer system there appears to be working properly.
The DEP confirmed the city received five calls in the last two weeks on the issue. On the first call, they responded the same day and by that time, the water had already receded and there was no flooding -- the caller hadn't specified the issue of the full catch basin, so it wasn't noted at the time.
But residents say clogged catch basins have been a recurring problem since Sandy; they even hired a private contractor to clean out the catch basin in the past because DEP wasn't getting back to them -- but it keeps clogging up.
"We had to pour hot water just for the smell to go away for a little bit, but it's still bad. You guys can still smell it," said Garcia.
One man said he's even abandoned the businesses in the area because of the stench.
"The restaurant has been complaining, the motorcycle place -- the people who come in here, I know they lost clientele because I was one of them," said Romeo Valentino. "Due to the smell, I take my business elsewhere."
"This is a really big deal, not just for my business, but the entire neighborhood," said Garcia.
DEP crews on the scene Wednesday ended up digging out several feet of trash from the clogged catch basin. But neighbors say the backups will keep happening without upgraded infrastructure.
"Those catch basins just cannot handle the rain, and then once they get filled with the stuff, the stuff doesn't really go anywhere because the catch basins don't drain anywhere -- they come back out, so it's an ongoing problem," said Bollinger.
The DEP says the clogged catch basin was cleared Wednesday and maintained that an inspection of nearby sewers "found them all to be operating properly." Crews routinely go through the city and clean out catch basins every year, a spokesman said.