As much as 500 million gallons of raw sewage a day is flowing into Newark Bay after superstorm Sandy disabled the nation’s fifth-largest wastewater treatment plant.
Larry Hajna, a spokesman for the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection, said it wasn’t clear when the facility, operated by the Passaic Valley Sewerage Commission, can resume operations.
“We’re advising people to avoid direct contact with the water, and avoid fishing or crabbing or other recreational activities,” Hajna said.
Between 300 million and 500 million gallons of untreated sewage is flowing each day into the bay, which feeds Arthur Kill, a tidal estuary, and Raritan Bay en route to the Atlantic Ocean.
The effluent “breaks apart and degrades as it moves through the estuary,” Hajna said.
Sandy knocked out power to the treatment facility early Oct. 29 as the storm, the biggest recorded in the Atlantic Ocean, slammed into the mid-Atlantic region. While power has been restored, plant operators must clear flooded areas and clean equipment before treatment can resume, he said.
Several states in Sandy’s path had untreated waste reaching waterways as facilities were knocked out in the storm.
In New York, 10 plants reported untreated waste reaching bodies of water. As of yesterday, four treatment facilities were still not operating normally, according to a release from Governor Andrew Cuomo’s office.