After Sandy, area wastewater systems get costly upgrades

February 10, 2014 11:40AM

New York area sewage systems and wastewater treatment plans are undertaking costly repairs and upgrades to fortify their facilities against the next Superstorm Sandy.

Westchester County has commissioned $900,000 to study flood prevention after its Yonkers wastewater treatment plant was overstretched following the storm. New Jersey’s Passaic Valley Sewerage Commission is requesting $779 million in federal funds in hopes of erecting a flood barrier and upgrading equipment. The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) last month pledge $810 million to revamp the Bay Park plant in Nassau County. The Department of Envrionmental Protection has also recommended $315 million in upgrades to treatment plants and pump stations in New York City, even though sewage systems in the city fared better than many of its neighbors during Sandy.

The stakes are high for the success of these numerous projects, as the full toll of wastewater dumped into local waterways has not been tallied. Residents are also wary of these overhauls not being successful, saying they may just walk away if there isn’t adequate assurance that treatment plants can weather the next storm.

Should no action be taken, the DEP estimates, more than $2 billion in flood-related damages will accumulate over the next 50 years.

“The problems that were observed during Sandy were worse than these facilities had ever seen before, but it doesn’t mean they’re never going to see them again,” Alyson Kenward, a senior scientist at nonprofit Climate Central, which researches climate change, told the Wall Street Journal. “With sea level rise increasing, the risk of storm surge is also increasing.” [WSJ]Julie Strickland