Why Are Schools of Fish Dying in the Bronx?


[Note: Members of HRRP, other activists, and community leaders met earlier this year with State Senator Alessandra Biaggi (SD34) and Mt. Vernon Mayor Shawyn Patterson-Howard at Sen. Biaggi’s office to voice our concerns about the state of the Hutchinson River and to ask them to take action on the problems outlined in this article. We’ll be meeting with them again—with the addition of State Senator Jamaal Bailey (SD36), whose district also borders on the Hutch—via a Zoom call this Wednesday, Oct. 28th for updates and to discuss where we go from here.]

by Amy Yensi, News12 Bronx, Oct. 25, 2020

Everywhere you look, dead fish: On the rocks, tangled in trash bags—lifeless and limp. It’s just the latest school of fish to meet their demise in the Bronx.  

“So you would have a plume of polluted water, which would have a lot of sewage and would have very little oxygen. That would create a fish die-off like this,” explained Tracy Brown of Save the Sound, an environmental advocacy group that researches the water quality of the Long Island Sound.

“So you would have like a plume of polluted water, which would have a lot of sewage and would have very little oxygen. That would create a fish die-off lie this,” said environmental activist Tracy Brown. 

She told NY1 that the sewage pipes in the Westchester County city of Mount Vernon are in such a state of disrepair, sewage spills into the Hutchinson river.

“[It’s] creating unhealthy conditions for the wildlife clearly, and also for people,” said Brown.

Scientists say the sewage starts in Mount Vernon, but it doesn’t stay there. It makes its way down stream to the Eastchester Bay in the Bronx.

The environmentalists say Mount Vernon’s sewage also spills into the Bronx River, which courses through the Bronx to the East River, and the Long Island Sound. 

Mount Vernon has ignored several state and federal court orders to fix it’s broken system, but last month a federal judge issued a court order requiring it to comply with the federal Clean Water Act.

We spoke with the communications director for Mount Vernon mayor Shawyn Patterson-Howard, who told NY1 that COVID has “seriously impacted city operations and services overall,” adding that, despite this shortfall, DPW has completed six of the seven mandatory repairs in the past three months.

According to New York City’s Department of Environmental Protection, the New York Harbor is cleaner today than it has been since the Civil War. But there are smaller rivers and streams like those in the Bronx that do not meet federal water quality standards.

“As a parent and as a human, just worried about the future of our waterways and knowing how important marine life is,” said Brown. 

For their sake, she’s hoping the court ruling is the watershed moment she’s been working so hard for.

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