Big stink in the Hudson river

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Millions of gallons of raw sewage pour into Hudson

By ROGER WITHERSPOON WWW.THEJOURNALNEWS.COM THE JOURNAL NEWS (Original publication: July 24, 2001)

YONKERS More than 5 million gallons of raw sewage poured from the North Yonkers pump station into the Hudson River yesterday after a power failure shut off the plant's equipment.

A power outage at a nearby Consolidated Edison substation caused untreated sewage to flow from the facility on Alexander Street at a rate of 1 million gallons per hour about 2 p.m., according to county Environmental Facilities Commissioner Anthony Landi.

Con Edison said power was restored about 7:30 p.m. and the spill was stopped.

"All this station does is transfer raw sewage down to the treatment plant," Landi said earlier. "We have no emergency power, and what we are doing is chlorinating the sewage and it is going into the Hudson River."

Sewage is usually processed in a series of steps that break it down into minute particles and subject them to several forms of purification, including chlorination.

In this case, however, Landi said the pump station had no treatment facilities and could only dump chlorine onto the sewage as it flowed through the plant and out to the river.

"Chlorination kills most of the bacteria and germs and micro-organisms," Landi said. "However, there are a lot of floatables. We are doing the best we can."

Health Department spokeswoman Mary Landrigan said the accident did not pose a widespread health problem.

"We have alerted boaters and people who use water for professional or recreational purposes that they should not use the water," she said.

"But because of the very great volume in the Hudson River and the tidal action, it will disperse this material and it will not continue to pose a problem for recreational water users."

The Health Department asked police to close boat ramps in the affected area so people would not launch their craft into the polluted region for at least a day. She said the department will reassess the health hazards in the area today.

"In order to become infected with any sewage," she continued, "you need to be in immediate contact with it. This is not something we anticipate happening."

Con Edison spokesman Chris Olert said it was not immediately known why one of two electric power feeders at a utility substation on Grove Street, a few blocks from the pumping station, suddenly failed. The second electricity feeder at the site was down for scheduled maintenance, he said. The substation serves six industrial customers in the area, including the pumping station.

The plant itself did not have a backup electrical generating system. Con Edison technicians installed a temporary generator last night so the station could resume operations while the utility worked to repair its power equipment.

Landi said the power comes into an electrical building on the grounds of the pump station and then flows to the 1,250-volt pumps. "We have had service from the two main feeders since 1935, and this is the first time we lost both feeders," he said.

There is $5 million in the county's capital budget to install a backup generator next year.

The Yonkers Joint Wastewater Treatment Plant treats more than 100 million gallons of sewage sent to it daily from several regional pumping stations. The North Yonkers pump station affected yesterday receives about 1 million gallons hourly from sewage pipes serving Saw Mill River communities north to Mount Kisco, and Hudson River communities north to Dobbs Ferry.

The plant itself is strictly a pass-through operation. It has no holding tanks. In an emergency, sewage is simply passed to the river through a 54-inch pipe. If the sewage was blocked, Landi said, the system would back up into municipal lines and homes throughout the sewage network.

http://www.thejournalnews.com/newsroom/072401/24sewage.html

-- Martin Thompson (mthom1927@aol.com), July 24, 2001

Answers

I read where some of these resistant strains can live in chlorox

-- David Williams (DAVIDWILL@prodigy.net), July 24, 2001.

Well, I'm not sure about that. For most bacteria (let's ignore spore- formers like anthrax), the question is whether the bleach can actually reach the organisms -- if they are protected by being surrounded by something, at the microspoci level, they may not be killed immediately. Hence "floaters" or "floatables" -- which means exactly what you think it means, in sewage terms -- may not be rendered non-infectious, at most concentrations of chlorox, until considerable time has passed. The various fats and bile salts protect the bugs.

On the other hand, some parasites are notoriously resistant to chlorine. Among the bugs that might be present in sewage, cryptosporidium is quite resistant to bleach. Perhaps this is what you are thinking of.

-- Andre Weltman, M.D. (aweltman@state.pa.us), July 25, 2001.


"microscopic" not "microspoci" -- typing too fast while on the phone at the same time.

-- Andre Weltman (aweltman@state.pa.us), July 25, 2001.

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