NYC Has a Problem Separating Sewage From Clean Water

Pollution Advisory After July Fire in Harlem Sewage Plant

New York City has had a sewage problem for years and it has nothing to do with a bunch of turtles that crawled into leaking canisters of nuclear ooze (although I’m more than confident that there are some mutant species of rats living somewhere in NYC’s sewage pipes).

NYC has had a difficult time in preventing untreated sewage and storm water from flowing into the area’s waterways. Just this summer, a fire broke out in a Harlem sewage facility leading to 100 million + gallons of untreated sewage to pour into the Harlem and Hudson Rivers. This past summer was one of the hottest on record for New York City and its residents were looking for ways to cool off. So they headed down to the beaches to cool off, but the local government quickly got involved in telling people to avoid swimming and fishing in the poop-filled waters.

Additionally, when the outdated sewage systems are overflooded with rain water, the sewage (consisting of a nasty mixture of urine, feces and New York City street water) is redirected from one of the 14 treatment plants and runs into one or all of the 400 + Combined Sewer Overflow (CSO) locations which lead into the city’s waterways.

Disasters like the fire that hit the Harlem plant are rare occurrences, but what is not rare is the occurrence of more rainfall in the Northeast and less in the South. Whether you believe in climate change or not, the fact of the matter is there is more precipitation occurring in the northern states leading to more flooding, more snowfall and yes, more sewage overflows into our waterways.

There is a glimmer of hope though. New York City and the Bloomberg administration are investing $2.4 billion of private and public funds into the creation of an environmentally friendly, sewage infrastructure. This project will take about 20 years to complete. The new system is aimed at trapping storm water before it reaches sewage plants. The city hopes this will be achieved through porous pavement, green roofing and depressions for accumulating water in parks.

This will help curb the 30 billions gallons of sewage water that enters the New York Harbor, Jamaica Bay, Newton Creek and various other waterways. And hopefully it will keep whatever mutant rats that are living in the sewers from getting out in the open.

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