Waterkeeper Groups Issue Call for Awareness About Sewage Contamination in the Wake of Hurricane Sandy
Wastewater treatment plants have been dumping hundreds of millions of gallons of untreated sewage into local waterways since Hurricane Sandy hit, and while New York plants are largely back online, New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (NJDEP) has not been forthcoming about the status of the spills or testing of the waterways. Hackensack Riverkeeper, NY/New Jersey Baykeeper and Hudson Riverkeeper are working to make the public aware about these spills and of sewage bacteria and other toxins that are a part of the storm’s surging flood waters.
Debbie Mans, Baykeeper and executive director at NY/NJ Baykeeper, said, “Billions of gallons of raw sewage have being dumped in the Passaic, Hudson, Raritan and Hackensack Rivers, Newark and Raritan Bays, and Arthur Kill and Kill van Kull since local wastewater treatment plants lost power late Monday night. Unfortunately, the general public is just now learning about this serious public health threat. New Jersey residents need timely notification of these spills so they can protect themselves. Additionally, more needs to be done in New Jersey to alert the public on how to safely cleanup flooded areas.”
“Thanks to the hard work of sewage treatment facility operators in and around the Hudson Valley area, most of our municipal sewage treatment plants are back to full operations at this time," said Paul Gallay, president and Hudson Riverkeeper. “These are difficult times and agencies and people dealing with the aftermath of this hurricane have an enormous amount to deal with, but the public needs information, especially from New Jersey DEP as to the status of these treatment plants and assurance as to when they’ll come back online. We’ve seen from this storm that the effects of these spills are far reaching and have an impact on all of our waterways and communities.”
Captain Bill Sheehan, Riverkeeper for the Hackensack River added, “It is unfortunate that it actually took a storm of this magnitude to amplify the miserable condition of our clean water infrastructure, perhaps now New Jersey will begin to recognize the opportunity and take the initiative to upgrade the woefully inadequate sewer systems throughout the State.”
Hudson Riverkeeper has posted further information about cleanup guidelines and who to contact for remediation at their website and the groups are urging people to contact the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection to alert the public about this serious health threat.