Thursday, July 21, 2011

Big Sewage Problems on the Hudson

Somewhere Wendell Berry noted that when small-scale technological solutions fail, the problems they cause are small. But when large-scale technological solutions fail, the problems are huge.

That came to mind today when reading about the problems at the North River plant and the millions of gallons of sewage released into the Hudson. Here’s a long excerpt from the Times website:

On Tuesday, just a day before the fire, tests on city waters found them to be in “excellent” condition, with all of them — except the Gowanus Canal — deemed fit for swimming, said John Lipscomb, the manager of water quality sampling programs for Riverkeeper, an environmental advocacy group that monitors conditions in the Hudson.
By Thursday, public boat launches on the Hudson had been shut down. Swimmers young and old were being turned away at the gates of Riverbank State Park, which sits atop the treatment plant, has three swimming pools and other amenities, and was closed because it had no electrical power. People fishing from piers along the river were advised that the water was unsafe.
The city has nearly 600 miles of coastline, and the warning from the health department covers the waters from the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge to the Hudson, Harlem and East Rivers. In those areas, the city says, people should avoid activities that could involve contact with the water. As of Thursday evening, that warning does not apply to the 14 miles of public beaches in the Bronx, Brooklyn and Queens, and on Staten Island. Officials said updates would be posted on the department Web site,
New York’s waterways have been transformed over the last four decades, in large part as a result of the city’s 14 sewage treatment plants, which were built or modernized with federal money under the Clean Water Act.
Instead of pouring into rivers and bays, raw sewage is now treated in plants like North River, which is on the Hudson between 137th and 145th Streets and handles waste from the West Side of Manhattan above Bank Street in Greenwich Village. About 120 million gallons a day is treated there, but it can handle up to 340 million gallons when it rains.


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