As most reports bring the devastation left behind by Hurricane Sandy, especially in the New York City region, there is one aspect of the flooding and power outages that is not getting enough attention. Many waste water treatment plants in New York City, New Jersey and Connecticut were flooded and saw power outages. Many are currently running on auxiliary power, but there have been reports that some waste water that was only partly treated has been discharged into local rivers and streams. This has the potential to cause widespread sickness and disease should people not heed warnings not to flush toilets and to drink bottled water.
In Connecticut, the Department of Energy and Environmental Protection reports that “power outages have caused sewage discharges in Branford, Bridgeport, East Lyme, Fairfield, Greenwich Ledyard, New Hartford and New Haven.” According to officials there, 27 of the state’s 89 treatment plants and 264 pumping stations are running on emergency power.
Additionally in Connecticut, officials in Bridgeport say 15 to 20 million gallons of partly treated sewage was discharged into Long Island Sound when the city’s two treatment plants we hit by the water surge caused by Hurricane Sandy. People are being urged to stay away from the flood waters and assume they are contaminated.
In Kingston, NY, repairs are being made on a transformer at the city’s waste water treatment plant after it malfunctioned forcing the plant to cease normal operation. Originally, the plant cased operation about 1:30 a.m., after Rondout Creek, which runs along the facility, overflowed and breached 7-foot berms around the plant. That water was pumped out of the plant, but a couple of hours later, after normal operation resumed, a transformer that had also flooded blew out and caused the plant to malfunction again. Untreated solid waste is reportedly going into the creek, though at this time it is not known how much untreated sewage has been discharged into the creek.
The waste water treatment plant in Norwalk, CT, was shut down last night just after 9 p.m. in anticipation of flooding from the storm. Officials in Norwalk were advising residents not to flush their toilets and to conserve water until the plant could be brought back online. It was unknown when the plant would be running again.
While children may find it fun to play in the flood waters, parents should be mindful of the dangers that lurk in the potentially contaminated water.