Don't even think about cooling off in the Hudson River, the East River south of the Triborough or in the Harlem river this weekend—City officials have declared them unfit for recreational activity due to the raw sewage spewing out of the North River wastewater treatment plant. The plant has been offline since a four-alarm fire ripped through its engine room on Wednesday. Since then, the plant has discharged at least 120 million gallons of raw sewage into the Hudson.
"Right now, there's no impact on public beaches," Department of Environmental Protection Commissioner Cas Holloway assured the Daily News last night. But that was then. This morning the city put out Beach Advisories against swimming at South Beach, Midland Beach, Cedar Grove Beach, and Seagate Beach."However," Holloway continued, "you should not be doing contact recreation on the Hudson River." Because if you do? Well that tainted water can lead to vomiting, diarrhea and fever. So, yeah, no kayaking!
DEP officials are unsure of when they will have the plant back up and running—the fire “did significant damage, and we don’t know yet when we will get it back,” according to a DEP spokesman—so in the meantime the moratorium on splashing in the rivers will be in place until at least Sunday. On the other hand, it could be, as a Twitterer says, "a beautiful day for a ferry ride through raw sewage."
While you wait, if you want a good primer on how the city's wastewater systems work Jim Dwyer's piece in the Times is a good place to start. Especially for fans of engineering. Did you know the North River plant handles sewage on the west side from Inwood all the way down to Bank Street? "A sewer line about six inches below the street at Bank Street gradually drops to a depth of 50 feet by the time it reaches the Upper West Side."