When it rains in New York, millions of gallons of sewage-contaminated stormwater make their way into the city’s rivers. This happens every time it rains. What you flush down the toilet ultimately winds up floating along rivers, canals, beaches, and waterfront parks rather of being directed to a wastewater treatment plant as it should be. Each year, more than 20 billion gallons of water that has been contaminated by human waste is pumped out onto the coastline of the city.
The old combined sewer overflow (CSO) system in New York, which was initially put into use in the 1800s, is to blame for this deluge that occurred. This system permits stormwater from the streets to be mingled with raw sewage; whenever a downpour overwhelms the sewers, this vile mixture pours into rivers all around the five boroughs of New York City because about 60 percent of the city is still hooked up to it. There are 460 different outfall stations around the coast of New York City, and each one of them empties millions of gallons of sewage into New York Harbor on an annual basis.
Since 2012, the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) has been working to create a series of 11 Long Term Control Plans (LTCP), which would impact sewage overflows all throughout the city’s five boroughs. This is being done in an effort to help bring the city into compliance with the Clean Water Act and the Clean Air Act. Nine of them have already been given the green light and are moving forward, which will bring an investment of over $3 billion dollars to severely contaminated rivers such as Flushing Creek and Newtown Creek, where it is not uncommon to see human waste floating in the water.
Using a complex cost-benefit analysis, the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) has been hard at work since 2016 trying to figure out how to reduce the amount of sewage that overflows into these large bodies of water. The agency is currently considering five distinct actions as part of the Citywide/Open Waters plan. If implemented, these measures would reduce the CSO emissions of 241 million gallons annually and would cost a total of $72 million. The idea would have an effect on nine distinct CSO outfall locations across the five boroughs of New York City: three in Manhattan, three in Brooklyn, two in Queens, one on Staten Island, and none in the Bronx.
Effects of the Sewage Dangers
CSO discharges have been cut by 80 percent since the 1980s, which, according to the DEP, has resulted in New York City’s waters being cleaner than they have been in the previous century and a half. The agency, along with the state and federal governments, is currently investing billions of dollars in order to clean up those polluted waterways.
Furthermore, additional billions of dollars are being invested in order to prepare for the effects of sea level rise and climate change, which will include an increase in the frequency and intensity of storms. The city needs a much more audacious plan to address the 11 billion gallons of raw sewage that pours into its open seas at this time, and not simply the proverbial drop in the bucket as a solution to the problem. The CSO outfall that is furthest south, according to the Citywide/Open Waters plan, can be found on the waterfront of Bath Beach, beneath a bike path that is located next to the Belt Parkway. The Verrazano-Narrows Bridge can be seen from this vantage point. The DEP’s standard CSO warning sign may be found affixed to the outfall, which bears the designation OH-015.
According to a map of the city’s CSO outfalls that was made by Riverkeeper, here in this city, sewage overflows in the amount of 749 million gallons were spilled into Gravesend Bay in the year 2016. Many city workers also had to file for recovery after several chemical toxins were leaked. When the sun is shining, the location appears to be no different than any other section of the coast.
The plan that the DEP has for New York Bay would bring about a reduction of around 90 million gallons in the amount of overflow that occurs here on an annual basis. Additionally incorporated into the plan for New York Bay by the DEP is Outfall PR-013, which may be found in Tompkinsville at the terminus of Victory Boulevard and is only one hundred yards from a public swimming pool.
The outfall is located on a deserted stretch of coastline near to a boardwalk which is beginning to fall apart, and there is no sign indicating that it is regulated by the DEP. The building that might be the outfall is in bad condition, with concrete that is split along the middle.
In 2016, there were a total of 33 distinct overflow episodes that resulted in 43 million gallons of sewage spilling into the surrounding area. Construction work proved to be extensive and some workers were put in harm’s way, even leading to legal cases. The deteriorating beachfront is currently inaccessible, despite the fact that the Bay Street Landing community is located nearby and contains hundreds of residences.
The proposal that the DEP has in mind for the East River would have an effect on two different outfalls. The first is known as TI-003, and it may be found on the coastline of Malba, with a view of the Whitestone Bridge. A building made of concrete and stone serves as this location’s outfall, and it discharges into Powell’s Cove’s central area.
During the course of 57 separate incidents in 2016, a total of 62 million gallons worth of sewage was reported to have overflowed here. The proposal proposed by the DEP would cut the amount of water that overflows into the East River by 86 million gallons in a normal year. As a result, the condition of the little private beach would be much improved.
On the shoreline, where there is a sparse population, eight new homes have been built. The sewage outfall known as TI-023, which is situated in Little Bay Park in Beechhurst and is adjacent to the Throgs Neck Bridge, is the most northern CSO outfall that is accounted for in the DEP’s plan. The sign that indicates its location is obscured by a low wall.
The year 2016 suffered an overflow of sewage that resulted in 90 million gallons being released into Little Bay. As a result, the beach at the park was contaminated with trash and dark sediment. In a typical year, the plan that the DEP has in place for the East River would result in a reduction of overflows of 42 million gallons. The outfall of Little Bay is a massive concrete structure. When the tide is low, it’s tall enough to allow people to walk across it.
On a day that is not particularly dry, there is a steady flow of pure water that exits this structure and entering Little Bay. Oysters, barnacles, and mussels can be found along the inside of the outfall as it makes its way inland and deep beneath the surrounding settlement. When it rains, millions of gallons of sewage water, garbage from the streets, and human waste would overflow from this structure and flow into the East River.