City Waterways Reopened After Harlem Sewage Spill

By Tom Liddy on July 28, 2011 11:45pm 

The city's waterways have been declared safe for recreational activities, like kayaking, Thursday in the wake of a sewage spill at a Harlem Plant.
The city's waterways have been declared safe for recreational activities, like kayaking, Thursday in the wake of a sewage spill at a Harlem Plant.
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Metropolitan Waterfront Alliance

MANHATTAN — All of the city's waterways that were closed in the wake of a massage sewage spill from a Harlem River plant have been reopened, officials announced Thursday evening.

Swimming at three Staten Island beaches had been banned and recreational activities on the Hudson, East and Harlem rivers had been prohibited following the release of more than 200 million gallons of untreated effluent from the North River Wastewater Treatment plant.

The ban was lifted on Thursday, a little more than a week after a four-alarm fire tore through the massive North River plant.

"The most recent water quality sampling indicates that bacteria levels found at these locations and in New York Harbor has returned to acceptable levels," the DEP said in a statement about the beaches.

Fishing is once again permitted in the waterways as well, the agency said, and warning signs at boat launches will also be removed.

The DEP said that it will continue to monitor water quality for any changes.

The fire at the North River plant last Wednesday crippled the engines that pump the sewage through the system, allowing it to be treated.

A release of effluent went unchecked until that Friday night.  However, a manhole fire at the plant allowed untreated sewage to flow into the river once again on Saturday.

In addition to the waterways, the fire shut down Riverbank State Park, which sits on top of the facility.  The park was reopened Saturday.

"DEP is still working around the clock to stabilize the operations that have been restored and is putting affected systems back in working order," the agency said in a statement.

On Wednesday, workers were able to get a third engine in the plant back online. 

Only two are needed to handle the roughly 120 million gallons of sewage that flow through the plant on a dry day. On a wet day, the plant can be inundated with nearly three times that amount.

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