Newtown Creek Came Within Inches of Sewage Deluge During Sandy, Experts Say

By Meredith Hoffman on May 1, 2013 7:07am 

GREENPOINT — Newtown Creek was just 6 inches away from being deluged by sewage during Hurricane Sandy, according to a new report.

The creek's wastewater treatment plant filled with the surging floodwaters until it was within half a foot of overflowing during the October hurricane, said experts from Climate Central, an organization of scientists and journalists. The group claims 1.1 billion gallons of sewage leaked from plants throughout the Northeast during Sandy.

"Being in the creek [as opposed to on a major waterway] protected it from the worst when the waters rose," said Climate Central researcher Daniel Yawitz. He noted that the plant filled "almost to the brim" on the edge of the waterway, already designated as a Superfund site by the Environmental Protection Agency for its extraordinary amount of pollution.

Newtown Creek's plant may have been spared, but the pump station on Canal Street in Manhattan was "overwhelmed," allowing 143 million gallons of sewage to overflow, the report noted and the city's Department of Environmental Protection confirmed.

The majority of that overflow spilled into the Hudson River, Yawitz said.

Yawitz noted that Newtown Creek still received sewage overflows from Maspeth Creek and from street flooding, but he said the worst possible scenario was avoided. But he warned that future storm surges could easily push Newtown Creek's plant over the edge.

"The effects would have been much worse in Newtown Creek than they were in the Hudson River or New York Harbor, since there would be less water to dilute a major spill," Yawitz said.

A representative for the DEP said the agency was working to prevent such a spill in the future.

"We have already begun a comprehensive review of how coastal storms and climate change impact our wastewater treatment plants and the results will be part of the Mayor’s Special Initiative for Rebuilding and Resiliency," he said of the city's post-Sandy initiative.

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