SANDY HOOK, NJ - Over Five Million Gallons of raw sewage an hour are flowing directly into the Hudson River just north of Midtown Manhattan – and New York City isn’t ready to release details of when the flow will be stopped.

Wednesday, around 5pm, a diesel fuel fire in the bowels of a Manhattan wastewater (“Sewage”) treatment facility started this emergency.  According to New Jersey DEP officials, the excessive heat of the past few days, coupled with the fire, made conditions at the plant so dangerous that workers couldn’t even begin repairs until early Thursday morning. 

Today, after almost two days of repair attempts, over 200 million gallons of raw sewage have been discharged into the Hudson River.  Officials from the New Jersey and New York environmental agencies have no timetable as to when they expect to close the leak, but with record high temperatures hitting the region, workers inside the plant are limited in what they can accomplish.

“Some of the waste going to this plant has been diverted by the City,” said Sean Dixon, Coastal Policy Attorney with Clean Ocean Action, “but most New York City wastewater plants are already operating at or near capacity, so there is no way to know whether there will be a trickle-down series of problems.”

“People all along the Hudson River Estuary, even north of the plant, should stay clear of the water, avoid eating anything caught in the water, and certainly not swim in the water for now,” said Heather Saffert, Ph.D., Clean Ocean Action’s staff scientist.  "Sewage contains dangerous pathogens that present health risks.   The workers responding to this crisis have been adding chlorine to the flow to disinfect what they can.  Unfortunately, both the sewage and chlorine also negatively affect water quality and marine life in the estuary,” Saffert added.

The most recent estimates and models from the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection should put New Jersey beachgoers at ease – at least for a while.  According to a Department spokesperson, the sewage isn’t expected to make it past lower Brooklyn by mid-Saturday.  Modeling and estimates for the rest of the weekend have yet to be released.

One concerning problem is that, because of the record temperatures around the region, turning on the plants pumps and generators could cause an electrical surge large enough to trigger brownouts.

“Unfortunately, this is a clear example of our inadequate water infrastructure – the electrical needs of this plant could cripple the city’s ability to stay cool and other sewage plants in the area are too over-used already to be able to meaningfully divert this plant’s sewage,” concluded Dixon.  “Does it really take a few hundred million gallons of raw sewage contaminating the Hudson River and New York Harbor before we make the investments that are needed to bring our sewage systems into the 21st century