History of Sewage Abatement in the Hudson River Estuary

Management of sewage pollution in the Hudson River estuary has been a problem since the earliest days of settlement. In the seventeenth century, the practice of collecting sewage in pails and dumping it into local waterways created such unsanitary conditions that the Governor ordered a common sewer to be built in southern Manhattan in 1680 (Tetra Tech and Stoddard, 2000; Stoddard et al., 2002). Construction of a sewer and wastewater collection system in NYC began in 1696, with many sewers in lower and central Manhattan built from 1830-1870. When not clogged, street sewers constructed primarily to relieve flooding discharged a foul mixture from overflowing privies and manure heaps into nearby boat slips, such that in 1868, the water was described as poisoned and the air contaminated (Suszkowski, 1990). Gross sewage pollution including seas of floating garbage were reported in the early 1900's within 15 miles of Manhattan (Metropolitan Sewerage Commission, 1912). Outbreaks of typhoid linked to oysters from Raritan Bay in 1904 and Jamaica Bay in 1918 closed the oyster fishery by 1925 (Franz, 1982).

Sanitary conditions in the Albany Pool (Fig. 23.1) were similarly degraded andpossibly worse since at leasttheearly 1900s (Boyle, 1969). Earlyinthe twentieth century, the City of Albany used the Hudson River as a water supply and typhoid epidemics were common (City of Albany, 1997). As recently as the 1960s, this 35-50 km section below the Troy Dam was described as coated in sewage fungus, permeated with floating oil and animal parts, essentially devoid of oxygen and fish in summer months, and reeking of sulfur dioxide (Boyle, 1969).

The abatement of sewage discharges into the estuary can largely be attributed to the Metropolitan Sewerage Commission in the early 1900s, the New York State Environmental Bond Act of the mid-1960's, and the Federal Water Pollution Control Act or Clean Water Act of 1972 (see Stoddard et al., 2002, Hetling et al., 2003, and others). The Metropolitan Sewerage Commission was established in 1906 to study sewage problems in NewYork Harbor. It established a water quality monitoring program that still exists today (see below) and recommended significant improvements to regional sewerage systems, including the construction of up to thirty-five WTPs (Metropolitan Sewerage Commission, 1912; Suszkowski, 1990). Implementation of the commission's report did notbegin until 1929 and modifications to the Commission's Master Plan guided construction of WTPs in the region for several decades. Recognizing the regional nature of water pollution, the Interstate Sanitation Commission was established in 1936 by New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut to develop common water quality standards and document regional progress in pollution abatement.

NewYork State initiated a water pollution control program in 1949 that initially consisted largely of inventorying pollution sources and assigning usage classifications for streams (for example, for drinking water supply). The most significant progress in pollution abatement occurred after 1965 when a State environmental bond issue provided $1.7 billion under the Pure Waters Program for construction of municipal WTPs (Hetling et al., 2003).

Stimulated by environmental activism and increasing public awareness of the national scope of water pollution problems, a new national policy was embodied in the 1972 Clean Water Act (CWA) that firmly rejected the historically accepted use of rivers, lakes, and harbors as receptacles for inadequately regulated waste disposal practices. The U.S. Congress' objective was clear: "restore and maintain the chemical, physical and biological integrity of the nation's waters" and attain "fishable and swimmable" waters throughout the nation. To comply with the CWA, the U.S. Environmental

0 0

Post a comment