Riverkeeper > News & Events > News > Water Quality > Waterkeeper Groups Issue Call for Awareness about Sewage Contamination in the Wake of Hurricane Sandy

Waterkeeper Groups Issue Call for Awareness about Sewage Contamination in the Wake of Hurricane Sandy

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Contact:
Tina Posterli, Hudson Riverkeeper: 516-526-9371, tposterli@riverkeeper.org
Debbie Mans, NY/NJ Baykeeper: 973-641-4565, debbie@nynjbaykeeper.org
Captain Bill Sheehan, Hackensack Riverkeeper: 201-755-6466, captain@hackensackriverkeeper.org

Urge stronger public notification from New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection

New York/New Jersey – November 3, 2012 – 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, Raritan Riverkeeper 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 & Executive Director, 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, 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.”

“The NJDEP sent out a press release on Friday titled, ‘DEP Issues Recreational Fishing and Boating Advisory,’ stated Bill Schultz, Raritan Riverkeeper. “For the host of contaminates that are found in flood waters, that they issued such a casual press release is irresponsible to say the least. It is hard to impress on people that what looks like muddy water is hazardous. Take sewage, heavy metals, chemicals and other toxins, agitate them with enough water and you get something that looks like the ‘dirty water’ that is now on people’s cars, toys, clothes, walls and floors. The NJDEP is telling us we shouldn’t fish or boat in certain waters, but if we do to be sure to wash and disinfect our fishing poles. The fishing in those waters should be closed. The public should be warned that huge quantities of raw sewage are being released into those waterways. The public should be advised how to properly disinfect these items to address the particular contaminates that are of concern.”

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.

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