Thursday, July 19, 2012

Yesterday's Massive Storms A Reminder Of Major Sewer Problems Across NYC Metro Region

Yesterday's deluge of rain as a cold front came through to break a 4-day heat wave was welcomed by many, although the rain may mean a washout at local beaches this weekend.

You see, much of the region - especially New York City - has combined sewer systems. That means that street water runoff mixes with sanitary sewage (toilet waste). On a normal day, this will get processed at sewage treatment plants and the waste wont make it into the area's waterways.

Yesterday's rainfall was anything but a normal day. The rainfall meant that much of the sewage bypassed the treatment plants and went directly into the area's rivers and waters:

That's from the 79th Street Boat Basin on the West Side. Hundreds of millions of gallons of untreated sewage went into the area rivers yesterday.

Now think about where you'll be swimming this weekend. Area beaches are likely to have closures due to high bacteria counts.

It doesn't have to be this way. Sanitary sewers should be separated from the runoff sewers, but that takes time and money. It gets short shrift because out of sight is out of mind - and who thinks about where their poop goes after it goes down the toilet.

We should - because the existing system across large parts of the country need to be improved to improve water quality and protect tourism opportunities for shorefront communities.

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