This is something about the 2003 Blackout that we didn't know about: The city dumped 30 million gallons of "untreated human waste" into the East River because the Department of Environmental Protection's backup generators didn't work! Good work, DEP. A federal judge has put the city agency under probation for three years, and the Times notes that this is the "latest embarrassment" for the DEP, joining the "mercury in drinking water reservoirs" and "employees who ignore laws" incidents in the DEP's recent history.
In yesterday's proceeding in United States District Court in White Plains, department officials admitted that backup power systems in two of the city's 14 sewage treatment plants that should have kicked in immediately after the lights went out in August 2003 did not function properly.
Without electricity to run the pumps, thousands of gallons of wastewater were dumped into New York waterways, forcing the closing of city beaches and increasing the amount of fecal coliform, or human waste, in the water to unsafe levels.
Officials said employees knew that the diesel-powered generators at the wastewater treatment plant in Red Hook, Brooklyn, had not worked for two years.
Um, Gothamist must check with our civil engineering friends and family to figure out how long it takes for fecal coliform to be safe - and we'll be making sure we don't try to dip our toes into the East River. While other blackout cities also had some sewage-oops (Cleveland dumped 60 millions of raw sewage, Detroit made residents boil water for a week) and weren't reprimanded, NYC's DEP was already under probation. Is there a three strikes rule for city agencies?
Related: A DEP report about water quality claims that the "levels of pathogenic indicators" was consistent with 10-year averages, in spite of the blackout and a man was jailed and fined for dumping raw sewage into the Long Island Sound.