Sandy leaves ecological damage in its wake

Oct. 30, 2012 at 6:37 PM   |   0 comments

SAVAGE, Md., Oct. 30 (UPI) -- Tens of millions of gallons of raw and only partially treated sewage spilled into U.S. rivers and estuaries because of mega storm Sandy, officials say.

A sewage treatment plant in Savage, Md., near Baltimore, spewed 2 million gallons an hour for about 15 hours into a Chesapeake Bay tributary, due to a storm-related power outage, state and county officials said.

Howard County Bureau of Utilities and Baltimore Gas and Electric Co. crews restored the power to the Little Patuxent Water Reclamation Plant by mid-afternoon Tuesday, county utilities Bureau Chief Stephen Gerwin said.

County Executive Ken Ulman told reporters one of two electrical feeder lines to the plant was still down.

Nothing was done during the outage to mitigate or stop the environmental damage, officials said.

Maryland Environment Department spokesman Jay Apperson said high water volume led to at least 19 wastewater spills statewide, WTOP-FM, Washington, reported.

The Virginia Health Department suspended shellfish harvesting in the Chesapeake's Virginia portion because of feces in floodwaters.

"Due to potential microbiological and chemical pollution hazards, shellfish taken from areas affected by the emergency closure are currently unacceptable for consumption," the department said in a statement, adding that eating them could cause gastrointestinal illnesses including norovirus, hepatitis A and shigellosis.

In Connecticut, millions of gallons of untreated or partially treated sewage was discharged into waterways from Branford, Bridgeport, East Lyme, Fairfield, Greenwich, Ledyard, New Hartford and New Haven, the state Department of Energy and Environmental Protection said.

Bridgeport alone spilled up to 20 million gallons into Long Island Sound, an Atlantic Ocean estuary, the city's Water Pollution Control Authority said.

About a tenth of the state's 353 treatment plants and sewage pumping stations were running on backup generators, officials said.

Along the Hudson River north of New York City, people were warned against direct contact with the river near Westchester County "until further notice."

The county health department said untreated sewage was flowing into the Hudson from sewage pumping stations in Croton-on-Hudson and Yonkers and from a sewage treatment plant in Yonkers.

The Croton station, near the Sing Sing maximum-security prison about 30 miles north of New York City, was shut down "as a precaution," the department said.

The environmental group Riverkeeper said the Hudson was also being polluted by "petroleum and fluids from cars and boats; contaminants from flooded subways, roads, parking lots and tunnels; and contaminants washed from shoreline industrial sites, as well as commercial and residential buildings."

It said "everything from 55-gallon drums and quart-sized containers of transmission fluid, to wrecked boats and swamped vehicles with leaking fuel tanks" were spotted in the Hudson.

A bit farther north, Kingston, N.Y., was forced to shut down a sewage treatment plant for about 9 hours after a Hudson River tributary overflowed its banks early Tuesday and breached 7-foot-high berms around the plant, causing a transformer to blow out, city officials said.

The city is at the confluence of the Hudson River and Rondout Creek tributary.

"Diluted waste has gone into the Rondout, so environmentally, it wasn't good," George Cacchio, president of plant operator Pollution Control Inc., told the Kingston Daily Freeman.

"But we've got it up and running now with the emergency generator," he said, adding utility Central Hudson Gas & Electric Corp. was installing a new transformer.

"So now the cleanup starts."

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