Sunday, May 01, 2005

10 Million Gallons of Raw Sewage, and Who Cares?

One of the biggest raw sewage spills in years is taking place now in East Haven -- as much as 10 million gallons pouring from a broken pipe into Morris Creek and New Haven Harbor.

Who cares?

Not Raymond Smedberg, general manager of New Haven's Water Pollution Control Authority. Smedberg says it's not a threat to the public and Long Island Sound will clean itself.

Not someone named Dwayne Gardiner, who works for the Connecticut DEP. He's confident "that Mother Nature will take over and correct the problem."

Not somebody named Dwight Juranie, who lives near Morris Creek. After all, Long Island Sound is a big place: "Twelve thousand gallons, twelve million gallons, it isn't much for Long Island Sound."

Not the local newspapers. The Connecticut Post didn't see fit to write about it. Either did the Hartford Courant, which supposedly covers the Sound shore. The Stamford Advocate and Greenwich Time didn't even publish AP stories, assuming AP cared enough to file a story (and there's no evidence that it did).

The New Haven Register wrote about it here. The Register reporter was content to let the man most likely to get blamed for lack of oversight -- the aforementioned Raymond Smedberg, general manager of New Haven's Water Pollution Control Authority -- tell him that it was no big deal.

Channel 8 News had a report and managed to find Dwight Juranie, a well known expert on Long Island Sound conditions, who told a reporter that it "isn't much for Long Island Sound." (Oh, wait a minute! Dwight Juranie isn't an expert on the Sound! He's just another guy who doesn't know much but has an opinion. Sorry!)

Here's a tip to local newspapers and reporters: When 10 million gallons of raw sewage spills into the Sound, it's news. Not only is it news, but it's a scandal.

Looking for some knowledgeable people to express concern if not outrage?

Try Soundkeeper Terry Backer: Phone: (203) 854-5330 or 1-800-933-SOUND.

Try Save the Sound: 1-888-SAVE-LIS.

Or try Nick Crismale, the president of the Connecticut Lobsterman's Association who is now trying to earn a living harvesting clams from Morris Cove only to have the sewage spill force him to suspend its work.

Anyone else want to volunteer to be outraged, not just at this assault on the Sound but at the complacency?

(In its first-day story, on Friday, Channel 8 did a good job tracking down and quoting Crismale and Attorney General Richard Blumenthal, both of whom are more concerned about the spill than the man in charge, Raymond Smedberg, general manager of New Haven's Water Pollution Control Authority, or DEP's Dwayne Gardiner. Here's the link.)

(Thanks to Robert Funicello for alerting me to the spill.)


Anonymous Robert Funicello said...

Unfortunately sewage collection systems, like all other infrastructure, fail: pipes break, pump stations lose power or have mechaical failures, etc. and sewage spills.Such events can also occur in connection with construction of facility upgrades. It is not clear what happened in this case.

These events must be kept to an absoute minimum and that will only occur if they are seen as disasters.

As you pointed out, what is shocking about this current spill is not only its volume but, the apparent lack of concern that so large a spill of raw sewage is occurring and the ignorant -and incorrect-speculation that this volume of raw sewage has no impact on water quality, wildlife habitat or human health.

Such ignorance and lack of concern can lead to a failure to provide for back-up power generation, regular inspections and other proactive maintenance and standby emergency contracts, so that spills are kept to the absolute minimum and when they do occur they are ended as quickly as possible.

Environmental engineers have a name for such planning: CMOM- Capacity Management Operations Maintenance. The rest of us can just call it common sense.

For 5 years the Bush Administration has been holding up a regulatory proposal made by Clinton's EPA that would systematically require CMOM programs in all sewage collection systems nationwide.

But of course that does not mean the Water Pollution Control Authority can't improve its performance and its attitude right now.

10:52 AM  

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