Friday, October 14, 2005

Let the Rain Fall and the Raw Sewage Flow

Every time it rains heavily, raw sewage flows from the sewer pipes in New York City, Hartford, New Haven, Bridgeport and Waterbury (and a handful of smaller Connecticut cities) directly into local waterways, including Long Island Sound. In fact, it is estimated that each year New York City’s combined sewers allow 27 billion gallons of untreated sewage to overflow.

That would be bad enough, except that the sewers are designed to do exactly that.

The sewer systems under those cities were built to combine sanitary sewage with stormwater. When there’s no rain, the sanitary sewage flows into sewage plants, where it is treated and discharged. But when it rains, the amount of water in the combined sewers is so great that it would flood the treatment plants if it got in, so the system is designed to overflow into local waterways.

Hence the name “combined sewer overflows.” And hence the routine decision to shut down shellfish beds and close beaches after a rainfall, because of the bacteria, viruses and other pathogens and contaminants that the sewage contains.

The good news is that everyone recognizes that this is a problem, and work is being done to separate the combined sewers. The bad news is that some people, including Soundkeeper Terry Backer, think the work isn’t moving quickly enough.

In weeks like this, I tend to agree with him.


Blogger lené said...

That just sounds awful. Glad to hear they're questioning that practice and moving forward to change it. Oh my.

4:50 PM  

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