News Feature | March 5, 2014

Superstorm Sandy's ‘Untold Filthy Legacy'

Sara Jerome

By Sara Jerome


Is it possible to prevent the kind of sewage spills that resulted from Hurricane Sandy?

"More than a year after superstorm Sandy, a messy problem has lingered: How to prevent storm surges from crippling sewerage systems and causing untreated wastewater to spill into waterways and homes," the Wall Street Journal recently reported

The problem has weighed on infrastructure experts who argue that, as Climate Central put it, sewage is Sandy's "untold filthy legacy."  

Utilities and municipalities are investigating the issue. "Sewerage systems across the New York City region are undertaking costly attempts to fortify against future storms, after Sandy sent billions of gallons of raw and partially treated waste into waterways and swatches of suburbia," the article said. 

Millions of dollars are going into this effort. For instance, in Yonkers, "where the wastewater treatment plant couldn't completely treat wastewater for a month after the Hudson River overran its banks, Westchester County has commissioned $900,000 in studies to determine how to prevent such floods," the report said. 

And in New Jersey, "where a 4-foot wall of water helped send four billion gallons of raw and partially treated waste into Newark Bay, the Passaic Valley Sewerage Commission is requesting $779 million in federal funds to pursue building a flood barrier, upgrading and elevating electrical equipment and producing its own electricity on-site," the report said. 

Climate Central explained that "one third of the overflow (3.45 billion gallons) was essentially untreated raw sewage.  The remainder (7.45 billion gallons) was partially treated, meaning that it received at least some level of filtration and, perhaps, chlorination."

The post-Sandy sewage mess has caused problems across various industries. For instance, the New York Daily News reported last month that "a group of fishermen who say Hurricane Sandy pollution ruined their catch want the city to pay them a whole lotta clams.The Baymen’s Protective Association — representing 76 clammers — filed a million-dollar lawsuit against the city in Manhattan Supreme Court."

Image credit: "Hurricane Sandy 2012," © 2012 charliekwalker, used under an Attribution 2.0 Generic license:

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