Monday, July 25, 2011

Sewage in New York's Rivers

A sewer outfall a few blocks north of Christopher Street in Manhattan on the morning of July 22nd. | Photo credit SeaAndSkyNY

If you live in New York City, you probably know by now that a pump engine fire shut down the North River Wastewater Treatment Plant at 125th St. last Wednesday night. Over the following two days, raw sewage was diverted from the plant into the Harlem and Hudson rivers, to the tune of about 200 million gallons.

Smoke from the fire fills Riverbank Park nearby. | Photo credit @phlpp7r

It was particularly unfortunate that the sewage outfalls contaminated New York's waterways the same weekend that temperatures in the city reached 104, a record high. The city issued an advisory warning against swimming at three beaches in Staten Island and one in Brooklyn, but it wasn't clear how effectively the warnings reached New Yorkers. The New York Times reported visitors with small children at two of the beaches who were unaware that the water was unsafe, and people were seen fishing in Staten Island and the Harlem river. Both activities carry serious health risks, and it may be that we need better systems for informing the public of CSOs (combined sewer overflows). As someone pointed out at this morning at a S.W.I.M. Coalition meeting, subsistence fishermen in East Harlem probably don't read press releases.
A floating barrier near the treatment plant. | Photo credit NYTimes

While this event was unusual in its scale and origin, the sad truth is that CSO events are not uncommon. They happen at various outfalls around the city almost every time it rains.

1 comment:

  1. Nothing new here except the size of the spill. Raw sewage enters the Hudson River in varying amounts everyday while New York officials turn their backs to what is going on.