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Astoria Park Bathroom Waste Was Dumped Into East River for Decades: City

 Waste from Astoria Park's bathrooms have been flowing into the East River for decades, according to the Parks Department.
Waste from Astoria Park's bathrooms have been flowing into the East River for decades, according to the Parks Department.
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DNAinfo/Ewa Kern-Jedrychowska

ASTORIA — Sewage from the bathrooms at Astoria Park Pool and a nearby playground has been pouring into the East River for decades — the fault of an outdated septic system, according to the Parks Department.

The environmental snafu was only discovered last spring, when designers working to turn the park's unused diving pool into an amphitheater found that pipes from the pool and neighboring Charybdis Playground weren't hooked up to the city's sewer system. 

Muck from the playground's bathrooms, as well as from the pool's concession stand, was ending up in the nearby waterway, Queens Parks Commissioner Dorothy Lewandowski said at a meeting for local volunteer group Astoria Park Alliance Tuesday night.

"That was a big problem," she said, blaming the error on the way the park's septic system was set up when the pool was built in the 1930s, "when people cared less about the environment."

"When our designers found this, we worked with the DDC and said, 'We need to correct this,'" she said.

The Parks Department shut down the facilities, and were able to get an emergency contract from the Mayor's Office to correct the issue at the pool so it could open in time for swimming season last summer.

But the bathrooms at Charybdis Playground remain closed  — and it could be years before they reopen, as the fixes have to undergo the city's lengthy design and procurement process, Lewandowski said.

"You will have a couple of years where you still won’t have the bathrooms there," she told the crowd Tuesday.

Parents have been petitioning to have the playground's bathrooms reopened in time for summer, though the Parks Department estimates the project won't wrap up until at least 2019.

Portable toilets were brought in last summer as an alternative, and the same will be done during the remainder of the work, officials said.

Lewandowski said the park's sewage problem is not unique in the city, where many sewer systems date back to an era when environmental standards were less rigid.

"It's not just parkland, it's other private properties, a number of facilities, unfortunately," she said.