November 23, 2009

Fun times in Brooklyn, NY

With the unseasonably high rains, the sewerage system is overflowing.
From the New York Times:

As Sewers Fill, Waste Poisons Waterways
It was drizzling lightly in late October when the midnight shift started at the Owls Head Water Pollution Control Plant, where much of Brooklyn’s sewage is treated.

A few miles away, people were walking home without umbrellas from late dinners. But at Owls Head, a swimming pool’s worth of sewage and wastewater was soon rushing in every second. Warning horns began to blare. A little after 1 a.m., with a harder rain falling, Owls Head reached its capacity and workers started shutting the intake gates.

That caused a rising tide throughout Brooklyn’s sewers, and untreated feces and industrial waste started spilling from emergency relief valves into the Upper New York Bay and Gowanus Canal.

“It happens anytime you get a hard rainfall,” said Bob Connaughton, one the plant’s engineers. “Sometimes all it takes is 20 minutes of rain, and you’ve got overflows across Brooklyn.”

One goal of the Clean Water Act of 1972 was to upgrade the nation’s sewer systems, many of them built more than a century ago, to handle growing populations and increasing runoff of rainwater and waste. During the 1970s and 1980s, Congress distributed more than $60 billion to cities to make sure that what goes into toilets, industrial drains and street grates would not endanger human health.

But despite those upgrades, many sewer systems are still frequently overwhelmed, according to a New York Times analysis of environmental data. As a result, sewage is spilling into waterways.

The Clean Water Act of 1972 is a classic example of big government taking control over the states and mucking things up. From the link above:

While each subsequent act was more stringent than the previous ones, they all contained the philosophy that water quality was primarily the responsibility of the states. It was the role of the federal government to assist the states financially, to conduct basic water research, and to maintain water quality in interstate waters. But the creation and enforcement of quality standards for most of the waters in the United States—intrastate lakes, rivers, streams, wetlands , and ponds—were left to state and local governments.

The 1972 Clean Water Act abandoned the approach that state and local governments were primarily responsible for ensuring water quality. In the midst of a national environmental movement, whose leaders claimed that virtually nothing had been achieved by relying on state action to reduce water pollution, the 92nd Congress embarked upon a bold new course. Although the 1972 act incorporated some elements contained in previous legislation, such as generous financial assistance to state, tribal, and local governments to construct wastewater treatment facilities, it also charted new waters in federal regulatory policy, and in relations between the federal government and the states.

And who signed off on this? That would be Tricky Dickey followed by Jimmah Carter in '76. Figures…

Posted by DaveH at November 23, 2009 07:27 PM | TrackBack
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