Billions of gallons of sewage flow into NY waters

Published on NewsOK Modified: July 28, 2013 at 10:46 am •  Published: July 28, 2013
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Riverkeeper is an environmental group that advocates for a clean Hudson River.

In June, Lipscomb's water sample showed microbial counts "off the charts" there from a sewage spill that left toilet paper in the stream. He told DEC officials who investigated and contacted sewer plant operators who fixed a blockage within days.

Lipscomb samples and tests water from 74 spots along the 155-mile Hudson estuary from Troy to Manhattan. His data show the river around the Albany area had unacceptably high levels of fecal bacteria about half the time, higher than most sampling sites downstream, except those at Kingston, Newburgh, Yonkers and the Gowanus Canal in Brooklyn.

The Albany and Troy sewage treatment plants under their state permits will begin next year disinfecting with chlorine and ultraviolet light to kill remaining bacteria in the water they release, Lyons said. "We'll be meeting water quality standards in dry weather," he said.

On Tuesday, Lipscomb also sailed past teenage boys fishing from atop culverts in Troy and Albany that are also sewer plant outflows. Riverkeeper posts its Hudson data online and recently had a software developer create a statewide online map that updates sewage discharge information around the state each day.

Hudson contamination from sewage is often localized and gradually diluted as the river flows and self-flushes as an estuary of the Atlantic Ocean.

New York City's roughly 25 billion gallons released into city waterways from about 50 overflows annually includes 12 percent raw sewage mixed with storm water. The Department of Environmental Protection maintains an online map of 28 waterways that are marked in red during presumed discharges based on rainfall. Since 1980, it has increased the capture rate of sewage overflows from 30 percent to 72 percent and says New York Harbor is the cleanest it's been in a century.

Residents can also sign up for Notify NYC emails or text messages of waterbody advisories.

The DEP's ongoing effort is to capture rainwater and keep it out of the sewer system to prevent overflows, spokesman Ted Timbers said.

"Seventy-one percent of the city is impervious, so all storm water goes into the combined sewer system," he said.

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Online:

State sewage discharge reports and wet weather advisory: http://bit.ly/13UebXk

NYC water advisories: http://on.nyc.gov/KqDMi2

Riverkeeper's Hudson River fecal bacteria data: http://bit.ly/dyQSv1