Bronx Zoo Agrees To River Cleanup

State Attorney General Spitzer and operators of the Bronx Zoo today announced an agreement to reduce water pollution in the Bronx River and fund construction of a new recreational area in the borough.

"The agreement that we are announcing today is a creative solution to a long-standing problem. It will enhance water quality in the river and give residents a new nature trail to discover," Spitzer said. "The Bronx River is New York City's only fresh water river and a natural treasure, made particularly special because it flows through an urban neighborhood. I want to thank the Wildlife Conservation Society for its cooperation and commitment to correcting this problem."

"We take matters of water pollution very seriously. We will devote additional staff and resources to make certain we are not polluting the Bronx River, which lends natural beauty to the Bronx Zoo," said Richard Lattis, Senior Vice President for the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS). "We are also excited about our partnership with the Attorney General to create the 'Bronx River Walk' - an exhibit that will address ecology, restoration and fighting water pollution."

An investigation by the Attorney General's Office into potential Clean Water Act violations found that for the past 20 years, as much as 200,000 gallons per day of untreated animal waste from the zoo has been discharged directly into the Bronx River. Under the agreement, WCS has agreed to develop and implement a plan to significantly reduce or eliminate these discharges.

The Bronx Zoo will spend approximately $250,000 over the next 10-15 years conducting a Bronx River Cleanup program during the Spring and Fall months. The zoo will hire local residents to remove garbage and debris from the Bronx River. The cleanup program will be coordinated with existing community groups.

The Bronx Zoo has also agreed to spend close to $1 million to construct and operate the new "Bronx River Walk," which will provide public pedestrian access to the Bronx River along with exhibits and information on the River's ecology, protection and restoration. The River Walk will be a 4/10-mile nature trail along the eastern shore of the River, in the northern portion of the Bronx Zoo site. Admission will be free and the River Walk will be open to the public during the same hours that the Zoo is open.

"These additional measures that the Bronx Zoo has agreed to undertake will help bring back the Bronx River to its original glory and will enable residents to enjoy it more fully. It is also terrific that the zoo will now teach visitors about the local ecology, as well as the animals and ecology of far-off places," said Spitzer.

The Attorney General, who was joined by members of the Bronx River Working Group in making the announcement, said his office expects to take additional actions against other polluters in the Bronx River watershed as part of his Bronx River Enforcement Initiative.

The Bronx River Working Group is a network of over 60 community groups, non-profits and government agencies working together to restore the river. Both the Attorney General's Office and the Bronx Zoo are members of the working group. Spitzer commended the group for their work to restore the river's ecosystem.

"We are thrilled that the Office of the Attorney General and the Bronx Zoo, both members of the Bronx River Working Group, have elected to solidify their commitment to the health of the Bronx River by engaging in this historic agreement. We are hopeful that others along the river will be motivated to cooperate with Attorney General Spitzer."

The Bronx River begins at Davis Brook in Valhalla and runs 24 miles downstream, flowing into the East River. As a result of development and pollution from numerous sources, the river is not fit for many uses. The federal Environmental Protection Agency discourages swimming in portions of the river due to the presence of pathogens in the water. Discharges of animal waste from the zoo have contributed to this problem.

The case was handled by Assistant Attorney General Philip Bein and Environmental Scientists Patricia Primi and Jodi Feld of the AG's Environmental Bureau, which is under the direction of Bureau Chief Peter Lehner.