Monday, December 3, 2012

NY/NJ Wastewater Treatment and Water Quality Post-Sandy

Wastewater Treatment

Superstorm Sandy’s 14 foot storm surge was devastating to many wastewater treatment facilities and wastewater pump stations.  Raw sewage was released in New York City, Long Island, and northern New Jersey waterways (and  communities, in some cases).  

Passaic treatment plant along Newark Bay
The discharge of millions of gallons of raw sewage contaminated some of the coastal waters of the Hudson and Raritan River Estuaries and Long Island back bays. These waters all flow to the ocean. Over time, much of this sewage has been diluted and/or sunk to the river beds and seafloor. 

Fortunately, most of the treatment plants are back online and functioning again.  However, wastewater infrastructure problems will take years and billions of dollars to fix, according to a recent New York Times article.  Many parts of the metropolitan area along the Hudson in both NJ and NY have old infrastructure and combined sewer overflows (CSOs) that routinely discharge raw sewage when it rains.  Moreover, a lot of plants and pump stations are located in low-lying coastal areas, which are vulnerable to flooding.  Precautions need to be taken to avoid damage and public health risks in future storms.  NY/NJ residents also need to take precaution to avoid waters that may pose health risks.

Water Quality

Recent water quality testing indicates that NJ ocean waters and several bay waters are now relatively clean again, with the exception of certain areas described in more detail below. The EPA found low levels on November 6 in NJ northern ocean waters, and the Monmouth County beach testing from Nov. 19 showed fairly low fecal bacteria levels at ocean beaches. DEP has shellfishing data that indicated problems in the northern NJ Bayshore and northern part of Barnegat Bay following the storm, and improved water quality conditions since then.  

However, shellfishing is still closed in the northern Bayshore (Raritan Bay and Sandy Hook Bays) due to water quality concerns. Shellfishing is also still closed in some other areas, such as Barnegat Bay, because shellfish were contaminated by sewage during the storm and have not been able to depurate (or filter out) the potential pathogens yet due to low water temperatures which slowed the shellfish’s metabolism and filtration activity. Shellfishing closures are also still in place in New York.   

Also, based on the most recent sampling on November 29 (which is not yet posted online), EPA strongly advises “that people avoid activities that could bring them into direct contact with the waters in Newark Bay and New York Harbor.”  EPA is advising people to avoid waters “in and around the tidal Raritan River/Washington Canal and Raritan Bay area.” EPA is also still warning that the public should avoid waters near and around the Bay Park wastewater treatment plant in Nassau County.  

Be Cautious 

Although many waters have improved, please take precaution, avoid areas near where raw sewage was released, and avoid swimming or surfing after heavy rainfall as there still may be health risks present. (Sewage may also be health hazard in homes that were flooded.)  Be sure to wash with soap and water if you think you did come in contact with contaminated water.  Surfrider has also set up an Ocean Illness Reporting forms.  If you swim or surf in NJ, click here. If you are outside of the Jersey Shore Chapter’s Region, click here


  1. Hurricane sandy was so horrible because she has a lot of infrastucture will damage but the good thing is they do something to make or to build again but the saddest part was it is a billion dollars and it takes a year before fixed it.

  2. Sometimes, we can't really fight with nature's act. This then will show our working relationship as a human being.

  3. Great Blog!! That was amazing. Your thought processing about water damage repair northern beaches is wonderful. The way you tell the thing is awesome. You are really a master. Thanks for sharing

  4. Thank you for sharing. I found this post to be very interesting. I wonder what the water quality is now after Nemo, which hit the east cost pretty hard. I can only imagine how bad wastewater treatment facilities are doing.

  5. Hi, I appreciate your blog. Wastewater comprises a mixture of domestic sewage (waste from household toilets, sinks, showers and washing machines), industrial effluent, occasional run-off of surface water and ground water which has infiltrated into the sewers. Wastewater is 99.99% water, with a small amount of dissolved or suspended solid matter. At our treatment plants the wastewater undergoes a multi-stage treatment process to clean it before discharge or reuse.
    Preliminary Treatment- The first stage of the treatment process uses screens to remove the larger solid inorganic material such as paper and plastics. This is followed by the removal of particles such as grit and silt which are abrasive to plant equipment.
    Primary Treatment- Following preliminary treatment, wastewater is passed through a primary sedimentation tank where solid particles of organic material are removed from the suspension by gravity settling. The resultant settled primary sludge is raked to the centre of the tank where it is concentrated and pumped away for further treatment.
    thanks~ Laila

  6. An interesting post, water testing is such a vital process to define water quality. It is extremely important to ensure that water is safe, especially after a storm like Sandy.