With reports last week of “thousands of dead fish” floating in Flushing Creek, the city’s Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) placed the blame on predatory TK fish, which the agency said chased the defenseless fish into low-oxygen areas where they ultimately died.
But Councilman Peter Koo (D-Flushing) and local environmentalists tell a different story, blaming the deaths of the fish on the polluted conditions in the creek, where the city is currently looking to reduce combined sewage overflows (CSOs). These are instances where, during heavy rainfall, sewage-treatment plants cannot handle the increased load, and a combination of excess rainwater and untreated sewage seeps into local waterways.
On Aug. 11, Koo used the deaths of the fish as evidence that the city should rethink its long-term control plan for Flushing Creek and Flushing Bay—which is the DEP’s plan to reduce CSOs. Alongside environmentalists, Koo argued that the plan’s use of chlorine to disinfect the waters could have a negative impact on the waters’ ecosystems, and that the city should invest in increasing the capacity of the area’s sewage infrastructure.
The DEP also says it sampled the waters the Monday before the fish kill, which occurred on Aug. 9, and found sufficient oxygen to support marine life. Additionally, it says the rain that occurred that Monday was all captured by the $350 million sewer overflow tank. It argues that fish kills like this have happened before, and if the water conditions were at fault, the predatory fish would be dying as well. The DEP is building green infrastructure in the area to capture stormwater before it enters the sewer system.
But marine immunologist James Cervino, who is the chairman of Community Board 7’s environmental committee, said that he analyzed the dead fish and concluded that the fish were killed by polluted waters. He said that had the fish been killed off in a predatory event, there would be “massive lesions and bitemarks.”
“There [are] no bitemarks,” he said. “Some of the fish have been eaten by blue fish and chased, which is a normal process, but a majority of fish that died off were due to a harmful algal bloom.”
What the hell is a TK fish?