NEW YORK (AP) — Several stores at Brooklyn shopping center have been dumping raw sewage and restaurant grease into a small creek that empties into Jamaica Bay, a wildlife jewel next to John F. Kennedy International Airport, authorities said Wednesday.

The businesses, which include a Regal Entertainment multiplex theater, a bagel shop, a TGI Friday’s restaurant and a marina, were accused of using busted sewer pipes that leaked human waste into the water and were charged with environmental violations. Residents complained starting last year, but prosecutors say some of the businesses were first cited in 2003.

Brooklyn District Attorney Charles Hynes said it’s unclear whether the sewage would cause permanent environmental damage. The leaks did not affect the city’s water supply, the largest unfiltered supply system in the world.

The waste was seeping from septic pipes that run along the banks of the Shell Bank Creek, which weaves through Sheepshead Bay and Marine Park neighborhoods in the southeastern tip of Brooklyn, prosecutors charged. The Department of Environmental Protection served a notice to the manager of the Regal Entertainment Group that the lines needed repairing after 2003.

But after complaints in 2009, an investigation using green dye traced discharges of fecal matter and toilet paper to the creek from the movie theater, prosecutors said. The other businesses charged, which include Knapp Street Bagels and the Deauville Marina, also used the pipes.

Theater attorney Austin Campriello said his client was innocent.

“The company spent nearly $2 million in repairing the broken sewer line that is at issue,” he said. “And we look forward to dealing with this in court.”

Lawyers and corporate representatives for the other businesses, managers and landlords didn’t immediately return calls seeking comment Wednesday.

The bagel shop and TGI Friday’s and its landlord also were charged with dumping untreated grease and oil into the creek.

Shell Bank Creek empties into Jamaica Bay and, ultimately, the Atlantic Ocean. The salt marsh islands dotting the bay are slowly disappearing, and though no one knows for sure why the marshes are disappearing some environmentalists say wastewater is accelerating the problem.

The loss of the islands could have huge ramifications for the environment: A quarter of the country’s bird population makes its way through Jamaica Bay.

(Copyright 2010 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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