Using Green Space to Improve Water Quality in the Bronx and Harlem Watersheds

Environmental Law


Instead of building hard cement pipes and sewer lines, a new federal partnership, as part of its urban waters initiative, will be developing green spaces in order to help cities meet Clean Water Act requirements. This past week the United States Environmental Protection Agency (“USEPA”) announced the Bronx and Harlem River watersheds in New York would be a site for a pilot program for the new urban waters initiative. The objective of the initiative is to assist cities in the development of green infrastructure, systems which are both environmentally friendly and less expensive to construct than the brick and mortar methods once used.

Water runoff and combined sewer overflow are major reasons for the poor water quality in our urban coastal zones. Storm water flows along parking lots, roads, and pipes, picking up and carrying contaminants to the nearest water source. The objective of the initiative is to reduce these impermeable surfaces and develop green spaces where rain and storm water can be filtered through the ground before reaching a major water source, i.e. your local stream, river, bay, or ocean. A federal partnership is actively engaging regional and local agencies and organizations to build support for these revitalization efforts. The USEPA and the Department of the Interior will work with the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation and Department of Transportation as well as the NY City Department of Parks and Recreation and Transportation and Planning. It appears that this collaboration has a secondary mission, to build leadership on the local level, engaging and serving community partners and increasing environmental awareness, especially among the youth.

For more information on New York State water quality thresholds and groundwater contamination, please contact Miriam Villani or Jason Kaplan.

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