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Sandy's Enduring Environmental and Public Health Disaster

The raw and partially treated sewage that has for the past month, and continues to, flow into the New York region's waterways "will be one of the most enduring and expensive effects of Hurricane Sandy," reports Michael Schwirtz.
November 30, 2012, 5am PST | Jonathan Nettler | @nettsj
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New York has suffered from the occasional storm related sewage release for decades, but the hundreds of millions of gallons of raw and partially treated sewage that has flowed into waterways in New York and New Jersey over the past month is unprecedented. As bad as that deluge sounds, and smells, the long-term impacts are far more concerning. As Schwirtz notes, "[a]lmost all [sewage treatment] facilities in the region are situated close to sea level and are vulnerable to storm surges," and repairing and protecting the area's wastewater infrastructure "could take several years and billions of dollars."

"In New York alone," says Schwirtz, "Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo has estimated that about $1.1 billion will be needed just for repairs to treatment plants. But officials now acknowledge that they will have to do far more. Motors and electrical equipment must be raised above new flood levels, and circuitry must be made waterproof. Dams and levees may have to be built at some treatment plants to keep the rising waters at bay, experts say. Failure to do so could leave large swaths of the population vulnerable to public health and environmental hazards in future storms, experts said."

“'You’re looking at significant expenditures of money to make the plants more secure,' said John Cameron, an engineer specializing in wastewater treatment facilities who is chairman of the Long Island Regional Planning Council. 'There is no Band-Aid for this,' Mr. Cameron said. 'This is the new normal.'”

h/t to Daniel Lippman

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Published on Thursday, November 29, 2012 in The New York Times
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