No safe harbor

Fears, but little information, in possibly sewage-contaminated areas of Baldwin


While some parts of Baldwin are almost completing their post-Sandy rebuild, others are still very much in the throes of the hurricane. One of the most insidious threats quite literally overflowed on Barnes Avenue, just west of 3rd Place, where a sewer erupted. 

What residents and Baldwin officials believe to be a 48-inch force main and sub-ground sewage vault burst during flooding caused by the storm. Jeffrey and Erica Press, residents of Barnes Avenue, on the Baldwin Harbor border, captured video of raw sewage flowing from a blown sewer vault and spreading via floodwaters all over their neighborhood. (See video below.)

The Presses, along with Jerry Brown, a Sanitary District Two commissioner and Fire Department supervisor, fear that the unchecked spread of contaminants may pose a health threat to Baldwin residents. They say that inspectors from the Federal Emergency Management Agency and the Environmental Protection Agency have substantiated their anxieties.

“The biggest concern for me right now isn’t who’s going to pay to fix this,” said Jeffrey Press, an architectural photographer who spoke to the Herald while waiting to see an insurance adjuster in a mobile unit at Cedar Creek Park. “It’s safety. People are living and children are playing in homes that may not be safe. We need someone to come down and slap an orange sticker on the door and say, ‘Go live somewhere else for a while, at least until we can look at this.’”

Jeffrey’s wife, Erica, a marketing professional who has dealt extensively with the building trades, underscored his conclusion. “My whole problem — and this isn’t about my house and my stuff — is that our neighbors don’t understand the health risks they’re in right now,” she said. “We see contractors working without hazmat suits, without protection. People are putting down new carpet and moving back in as if nothing happened. I don’t have a medical background, but I’m not an alarmist. This isn’t safe.”

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