Monday, May 01, 2006

In the News: Sewage Beach - Summer’s almost here, and things are getting excrementally worse with our water.

CSOs, or combined sewage outfalls, are a hot button topic in the New York - New Jersey Harbor Estuary right now and many news articles and events have been researching and reporting on the issue. CSOs are outfall pipes that release a mix of stormwater runoff and raw sewage when rains of approximately one-tenth of an inch or greater fall in our region. The end result is that the waters the Harbor Estuary become polluted with bacteria and chemicals, making for unswimmable and unfishable conditions. State Senator Velmanette Montgomery recently held a public forum on CSO's and the Gowanus Canal that explored the impacts and potential solutions to the problem of wastewater and our coastal environmental. The major solutions as of now appears to be billion dollar infrastructure improvements, however some hope that these "end-of-the-pipe" resolutions are complemented by other forms of conservation and restoration like green roofs on new developments writes New York Magazine. JB

By Eric Wolff
May 1, 2006 issue of New York Magazine

Is New York flushing away its summer fun? Our century-old sewer system is already so overburdened that it overflows 70 days a year dumping 27 billion gallons of waste into the city's waterways, just as high-rises are going up on their banks. (Even the ever-fetid Gowanus Canal is being lined with housing.) Last summer, two city beaches were closed because of high bacterial levels; experts say all this building is going to make the problem worse. And while it's still pretty safe to kayak on the Hudson this summer, within ten years, I could easily see beaches closing for much of the summer season, says biophysicist Paul Mankiewicz of the Gaia Institute.

All it takes is a tenth of an inch of rain falling in an hour a tenth! for the sewer system to start emptying into the rivers. It's partly a problem of neglect: In 1992, the city's treatment plants were in such disrepair that the state's Department of Environmental Conservation sued under the Clean Water Act; the city has never allayed the DEC's concerns, and the State Supreme Court upheld a $13.9 million fine against the city last April.

Meanwhile, the city's population has edged over 8 million, and the Department of Planning is expecting at least 37,000 new apartments citywide in the next ten years. We're operating under the assumption the sewers can handle it, says a spokeswoman for the city's Department of Environmental Protection. If we didn't think so, developers wouldn't get a permit to connect to the system. And that's all we have to say.


Gowanus CSO Forum

Apr 27 Gowanus Canal CSO Public Forum
State Senator Velmanette Montgomery, Brooklyn Community Board 6 and local elected officials are co-sponsoring a Public Forum on Combined Sewage Outfalls (CSO's) flowing into the Gowanus Canal. Representatives from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, NYS Department of Environmental Conservation and the City's Department of Environmental Protection will be on hand to report on their efforts to improve the environmental condition of the Gowanus Canal and answer questions from the public. Also participating will be representatives for Friends and Residents of the Greater Gowanus (FROGG), Gowanus Canal Community Development Corporation (GCCDC), and Urban Divers.

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