Brooklyn DA Arrests Four on Environmental Crimes

Grease, toilet paper and fecal matter were leaking into a Brooklyn creek that empties into Sheepshead Bay for almost seven years, according to Brooklyn District Attorney Charles Hynes. On Wednesday, Hynes announced the arrests of four property owners and managers for environmental crimes.

Hynes said the four men and their companies, including a multiplex cinema, a TGI Fridays restaurant, and a bagel shop shared a sewage pipe that they were responsible for maintaining. "Their private sewer system regularly broke down, flooded the parking lot, created noxious odors and regularly deposited large quantities of raw sewage directly into the waters of Shell Bank Creek," said Hynes.

The alleged polluters were warned in 2003 that the pipes were leaking. Regal Cinemas repaired the pipe in 2009 and water quality improved substantially, but that hasn't prevented subsequent spills. TGI Fridays and the bagel shop are accused of dumping untreated waste grease and oil into the creek. A marina manager is also accused of dumping raw sewage from a portable toilet into the creek.

City Department of Environemtal Protection deputy commissioner Vincent Sapienza said that while the area's waterways are cleaner than they have been, the DEC takes every sewage leak seriously. "It may seem that only a handful of business were discharging this waste water, but it did spread into a pretty wide area that's very sensitive and has a number of local beaches," said Sapienza.

The charges carry a maximum sentence of four years and fines up to $75,000 for each day the pollution was discharged.

TGI Fridays says they do not own or control the sewage pipe. Calls to Regal Cinemas have not been returned.