Hearing to Examine Raw Sewage in City's Waterways

By Jeff Mays on October 14, 2011 6:58am 

L. Ann Rocker, president of the Friends of Riverbank Park, and State Senator Adriano Espaillat called for a hearing into the cause of the fire that shutdown the North River Wastewater Treatment Plant last week.
L. Ann Rocker, president of the Friends of Riverbank Park, and State Senator Adriano Espaillat called for a hearing into the cause of the fire that shutdown the North River Wastewater Treatment Plant last week.
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DNAinfo/Jeff Mays

HARLEM—Following this summer's fire and explosion at the North River Wastewater Treatment Plant that sent more than 200 million gallons on untreated sewage into the Hudson River, State Sen. Adriano Espaillat is holding a hearing Friday about the regular expulsion of sewage into the city's waterways.

The July 20 fire crippled the five engines at the plant, sending untreated waste into the Hudson River. Riverbank State Park was evacuated. Both the Hudson River and Harlem River were closed to recreational users after the incident and four beaches in Staten Island and Brooklyn were closed on the hottest day of the year.

But wastewater treatment plants regularly pump untreated sewage into the city's waterways every time it rains. The city's combined sewer system, which transports both rainwater and sewage for treatment, dump the effluent to prevent the system from overflowing when there is as little as a half inch of rain.

Over the course of a year, as much as 30 billion gallons of untreated rainwater and sewage are sent into the city's waterways. The North River Wastewater Treatment Plant sends 800 million gallons of untreated sewage into the Hudson each year.

Environmental advocates have called for better  public notification when untreated sewage is expelled.

"The hearing is an important step towards preserving New York's water quality. Continuing to release billions of gallons of raw sewage into our waters is unacceptable," said Espaillat, a member of the Senate Environmental Conservation Committee. He is sponsoring the hearing with Sen. Mark Grisanti.

"We must reform this practice and implement a strong notification system that protects the public from polluted water," he added.

Expected at the hearing are Department of Environmental Protection Commissioner Carter Strickland and Department of Environmental Conservation Regional Administrator Venetia Lannon.

The hearing will be held from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the Senate Hearing Room, 250 Broadway.

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