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NYC Sewage Treatment Plant Dumping Raw Sewage into Hudson After Fire

Since 5:15 p.m. yesterday, the North River Wastewater Treatment Plant, at 135th Street in New York City, began discharging untreated sewage into the Hudson River following a four alarm fire that caused severe damage and the shutdown of the plant. Riverkeeper is relieved that no one was seriously injured in the fire or subsequent evacuation of Riverbank Park, and fully supports the Department of Environmental Protection’s (DEP) efforts to bring the treatment plant back online as soon as possible. However, we are concerned that the city’s efforts to notify the public have been inadequate and potentially confusing, and do not fully inform the public as to the risks posed by such a massive discharge of sewage into the Hudson.

For example, the DEP and New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene have issued a combined statement that focuses primarily on official swimming beaches and provides a very vague warning about recreating in the river, ignoring the fact that thousands of New Yorkers recreate on the Hudson from riverfront parks and boats, often far from designated public beaches such as Jones Beach. Riverkeeper considers the entire Hudson River estuary a “beach” during the boating and swimming season – New York City should do the same, to ensure that all New Yorkers are protected from the potential health effects of sewage discharges like this one. Any discharge of sewage is unacceptable and must be prevented at all costs.

“When accidents like this happen, it is critical that NYC officials speak with one voice, and provide the public with accurate, consistent information about the public health risk and environmental impacts that result,” said Phillip Musegaas, Hudson River Program Director at Riverkeeper. “New Yorkers use the entire Hudson, New York Harbor and East River for recreation, not just Jones Beach. The city’s public notification effort must reflect that fact, and ensure that all New Yorkers who want to enjoy the city’s “Sixth Borough” can do so with the best information available.”

Given the large number of organized boating events scheduled over the next few days in NYC, it is critical that the Health Department update this advisory and provide the public with better information on the geographic scope of sewage contamination in the Hudson River, and the risk to public health it represents.

The North River plant is located on the Hudson River, west of the West Side Highway from 137th Street to 145th Street and provides wastewater treatment for the hundreds of thousands of people who live and work in or visit the west side of Manhattan, from Bank Street in Greenwich Village to Inwood Hill at the island’s northern tip. North River has the capacity to treat 140 million gallons of sewage per day, but it is unknown how much has been dumped into the Hudson since yesterday afternoon. Based on its capacity, it is likely that millions of gallons of sewage have been discharged.

Riverkeeper will continue to provide updates as more information becomes available.

For information about Riverkeeper’s Water Quality Testing Program, visit:

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