Riverbank State Park Reopens After Sewage Treatment Plant Fire

By Tom Liddy on July 23, 2011 3:56pm | Updated on July 24, 2011 1:09am

A massive fire at the North River Wastewater Treatment Plant at 725 W. 135th St. forced the evacuation of Riverbank State Park and closed a portion of the West Side Highway.
A massive fire at the North River Wastewater Treatment Plant at 725 W. 135th St. forced the evacuation of Riverbank State Park and closed a portion of the West Side Highway.
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MANHATTAN — RIverbank State Park reopened Saturday after being shuttered for days because of a massive fire in the Harlem sewage treatment plant it sits atop.

The move to reopen the $100 million facility came at around 2 p.m.  The park, which has an Olympic sized swimming pool and a host of other facilities, had been closed since Wednedsay, when a four-alarm fire ripped through the North River Wastewater Treatment plant.

Despite the progress in repairing the plant, raw sewage flowed for hours into the Hudson River Saturday.

Sludge had poured unabated into the Hudson River from Wednesday until about 9:30 p.m. Friday night following the fire.

Officials manged to get two engines that drive the plant's pumps working Friday, stopping the flow, but an electrical problem due to a manhole fire Saturday morning stopped the engines again, Department of Environmental Protection Commissioner Cas Holloway said.

Although workers were able to get the engines running, they were initially only able to restart one pump.

It's not clear exactly how much swewage flowed into the Hudson Saturday, but officials estimated the rate at 15-25 million gallons a day.

By the afternoon, workers had restarted both pumps and were "bringing this amount of discharge down," he said.

The flow of untreated effluent had stopped by 3:30 p.m.

"We've made tremendous progress in bringing the system back on line," Holloway added. "This is an incredibly complicated facility."

Workers were in the process of installing an additional pumping system in case problems arose with the existing system, according to the DEP.

They also diverted some of the sludge from the North River plant to the Wards Island Wastewater Treatment Plant in the East River.

As a result of the discharges city officials are still warning people to stay out of the Hudson, East and Harlem Rivers as well as four beaches in Staten Island and Brooklyn.

The beaches are not closed, but residents are advised not to swim or bathe there until the advisory is lifted. 

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