Sewage Frequently Fouls Hudson River, Report Says

August 9, 2011 by  
Filed under Water Quality

The study, issued by the environmental group Riverkeeper, underscores how a big sewage discharge in July, caused by a fire at a treatment plant in Manhattan, was part of a persistent and far more widespread sewage problem along the 155-mile river.

Despite improvements in water quality since the passage of the Clean Water Act in the 1970s, the group said, 21 percent of its water samples had unacceptable levels of bacteria because of problems like discharges from aging or failing sewage treatment plants, overflows caused by rain and poor maintenance of septic systems.

“More and more people are fishing, swimming and boating in the Hudson,” Riverkeeper’s president, Paul Gallay, said in an interview. “If we fail to take care of the river, we lose the gains we’ve made and the economic benefits that go with them.”

The study, based on more than 2,000 water samples collected from May through October at 75 sites between Albany and New York City from 2006 to 2010, offers some surprises. Some of the worst contamination, it turns out, comes from tributaries like streams and creeks that flow into the Hudson.

The report says further research is needed to pinpoint the cause of the pollution in the tributaries, but it suggests some possibilities like leaking septic systems that contaminate groundwater, illegal sewage hookups and agricultural runoff.

With more than eight million residents, New York City nonetheless has better water quality in its part of the Hudson than the Albany region, home to barely one million people, the study also concludes. One reason is that sewage in Albany enters a narrower and shallower stretch of the river, without the dilution benefits of New York City’s proximity to the Atlantic Ocean.

Another reason, the report says, is that Albany’s treatment plants do not disinfect sewage — although there is a plan to start doing so by 2013 — leaving that section of the Hudson “chronically sewage-laden.”

The bright picture in New York City dims during rainstorms, however, when treatment plants cannot handle the volume, and a mix of sewage and storm water flows into the river. Over all, unacceptable samples increase more than threefold — to 32 percent from 9 percent — in wet weather versus dry weather, the report said.

Riverkeeper’s testing program, a collaboration with Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory of Columbia University and Queens College at the City University of New York, measures levels of the bacterium enterococcus, which lives in the intestines of humans and some animals. The group said that only New York City and 4 of 10 counties along the river currently perform water quality tests and that none report the findings in a timely fashion.

Riverkeeper officials are recommending weekly water quality testing and public notification on results, more spending on wastewater infrastructure, better enforcement of clean-water laws and new rules like one requiring the inspection and maintenance of private septic systems.

Carter Strickland, a deputy commissioner with the New York City Department of Environmental Protection, said on Tuesday that the city had spent nearly $2 billion since the 1990s addressing the problem of combined sewer overflows, which involve systems that collect both storm water runoff and sanitary sewage in the same pipe. He said the solutions included separating the sewage and storm water runoff in some areas and building storage tanks in others so that overflows can be retained and treated.

The Bloomberg administration is also encouraging investment in environmentally friendly infrastructure, like roofs with plantings and porous pavement for parking lots, to capture and retain storm water before it reaches the sewer system and overloads it, Mr. Strickland said.

In the meantime, he said, his department is working toward releasing the results of its water quality tests to the public as soon as they become available.

Devices to monitor lake water quality

January 21, 2011 by  
Filed under Dumping

BANGALORE: In its efforts to check the deteriorating quality of water in the lakes across the city due to indiscriminate dumping of waste and discharge of sewerage into the catchment areas, Karnataka State Pollution Control Board (KSPCB) is exploring the possibility of installing programmed devices to monitor the water quality in the lakes round the clock.

At present, the KSPCB is testing the accuracy of the devices offered by a private agency in Ulsoor lake, Sankey Tank and Bellandur Lake. According to the sources the cost of each device is expected to vary from `515 lakh according to the parameters that the device is expected to monitor. At present, the devices installed are monitoring the temperature, pH value, dissolved oxygen, total dissolved solids and turbidity. According to the readings obtained from these devices the water quality is acceptable in Ulsoor Lake and Sankey Tank and bad in Bellandur lake.

The KSPCB Member Secretary M S Gouder said, “We are also thinking of testing these devices for more parameters like E.coli [bacteria] and heavy metals. After the accuracy of these devices are proved, we will consider them in the lakes and coordinate with the other governmental agencies to maintain them in good condition as these devices will help us understand if anything is going wrong.”

According to Gouder these devices will be useful in monitoring the water quality automatically round the clock in the newly rejuvenated lakes as most of them are situated in the outskirts or the newlyadded areas of the city. They are also expected to help the concerned authorities to prevent the flow of sewerage or dumping of waste into the lakes by alerting them when the quality of water starts deteriorating.

Programmed sensors are inserted into the lakes and each sensor monitors a particular parameter and transmits the data to the centralised server every fifteen minutes. The data is later processed and updated on the website and transmitted to the concerned officials periodically.

Brew City Flood: Sewage Dumping Surpasses BP Oil Spill

July 29, 2010 by  
Filed under Dumping

By Michael George

MILWAUKEE – Just when you thought it was safe to back in the water comes word that more than 2 billion gallons of untreated sewage and storm water was dumped into Lake Michigan.

Many beachgoers at Bradford Beach said they wouldn’t ever go back in the lake again.

In fact, the amount of sewage and storm water dumped in Lake Michigan last week is 10 times the amount of oil spilled by BP in the Gulf Coast.

The BP spill is estimated at 94 to 184 million gallons of oil.

The sewage and storm water runoff is estimated at 2.1 billion gallons.

Many beaches were closed for several days over concerns of E. coli contamination. Now, some beaches are reopening, and sure enough, we found people back at Bender Beach, jumping into the water

Many were fully aware of the sewage dumping, and said it didn’t bother them.

“The water’s fantastic and I’m not worried about it whatsoever,” said Colleen McCann.

McCann said if tests show the water is safe, she doesn’t feel like she’s in danger. She doesn’t mind that other swimmers are staying away.

“Good, it makes it better for the rest of us to come swimming,” McCann said.

The lake at Bradford Beach remains closed to the public, though people are allowed to sit on the beach.


Sewage Beach

April 7, 2009 by  
Filed under Protecting Habitats, Water Quality

Summer’s almost here, and things are getting excrementally worse with our water.

By Eric Wolff

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.”

But even developers seem to recognize the issue. In part to deflect the anger of neighborhood activists, the developers of the massive Atlantic Yards complex in Brooklyn promised to build underground tanks to collect up to 800,000 gallons of storm-water runoff, and to install newfangled “waterless urinals.”

Chicago, Boston, and Philadelphia have a broader wastewater policy that relies more on soil and parks to manage flow, but such ideas have not made headway in New York. “Wet-weather flows are not something they’re requiring builders to deal with at all,” says Brad Sewell, attorney for the Natural Resources Defense Council—instead, the city’s policy on sewage focuses entirely on projects whose cost is borne by the taxpayer: new pipes, new tanks, and improvements to treatment plans. “The city’s approach to this problem is not only irresponsible but a complete waste of taxpayers’ dollars,” says Basil Seggos of the environmental group Riverkeeper.