(NaturalNews) Hurricane Sandy may have already passed through New York and New Jersey, but its aftermath is still a very present reality in New York Harbor, where an unimpeded flow of human waste continues to flood this busy, urban waterway. Recent reports indicate that the nation's fifth largest water treatment plant in Newark is still dumping some 240 million gallons of partially treated wastewater into the harbor every single day, which continues to create a very serious health hazard throughout the region.
Boaters, fisherman, and others that traditionally use the harbor and its connecting patchwork of waterways are being urged to avoid them until further notices, as bacteria levels are still too high to be considered safe. And while the Passaic Valley Sewerage Commission (PVSC), which operates the plant, says it is working hard to restore the facility to its normal function as soon as possible, it is unclear precisely when this will occur, as a storm surge of Sandy's magnitude has never before occurred at the plant.
"We've never had the facility flood like this," said Mike DeFrancisci, executive director of PVSC, in the days following the storm. He was quick to add that most of the toxic waste being released is not persistent, which means it will eventually break down and biodegrade. And yet at the same time, there are various other toxins, including industrial toxins, mixed in with this wastewater that are still concerning to environmental experts.
"Human waste is hazardous to public health if you get exposed to it, but it's the hidden stuff that's mixed in with the sewage that normally gets pulled out at the treatment plant that isn't getting pulled out," said Larry Ragonese, a spokesman from the New York City Department of Environmental Protection. "If it was just household sewers it would be one thing, but we have to worry about all the other stuff."
According to experts, levels of bacteria in the harbor have been in slow decline since the earliest days following the storm, but public caution is still being urged as the treatment plant inches towards full recovery. In the meantime, the wastewater is being treated with chlorine, which will at least kill some of the potentially deadly pathogens, and plant facilitators are evaluating new preventive measures such as water-tight doors that they hope might protect the plant and harbor against future disasters.