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East Coast Still Struggling With 11 Billion Gallons of Sewage Overflow After Hurricane Sandy

The East Coast is still suffering from excess Hurricane Sandy debris, including 11 billion gallons of raw sewage seeping through waterways from New York to Washington, D.C.

The science journalism group Climate Central conducted a conference call with reporters on Tuesday and announced that the 11 billion gallons of sewage plaguing the East Coast is enough to fill New York’s Central Park with 41 feet of sewage, or 17,000 Olympic-sized swimming pools.

The damage and clean up, according to the group, has shed a telling light on the state of preparedness on the East Coast for extreme scenarios. In the aftermath of Sandy, the sewage system was drastically outmatched by storm surges, which raised the water level nine feet above high tide marks.

"Our sewage infrastructure isn't built to withstand such surges and we are putting our property, safety and lives at risk if we don't adequately plan for these challenges," said Alyson Kenward, a senior scientist and research manager for Climate Central.

New York has been looking at various ways over the years to reinforce the subway systems, which are prone to flooding during intense storms, and power stations, many of which are located along the coast. And now, due to the sewage problem, the scientists at Climate Central are encouraging officials to also consider reinforcing waste management sites.

Repairs to New York and New Jersey’s sewage treatment plants — the ones that took the brunt of the damage during Sandy — may cost upwards of $4.7 billion. The repairs may be a good time to invest in proactive infrastructure to reduce future damage during hurricanes or other storm surges.

"In the long run, sea-level rise is going to force us to rework our infrastructure physically if we are going to keep it intact," Kenward said.

Sources: Guardian, New York Times


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