Calling All Water Protectors: Sewage in the Water?!

by Nicole Wines

There is nothing like a good downpour to replenish the gardens, the ground, the rivers…so clean and fresh, just the way nature intended…if only us humans could get our acts together. What could be more natural than a rainfall? But thanks to human activity, every hard rainfall brings with it a barrage of harmful and potentially toxic effects. My heart dropped for a moment this morning when I opened my newsfeed to reports of almost half a million gallons of raw sewage being discharged into the Hudson River over this past weekend due to the heavy Nor’Easter rains we experienced over the weekend.

Read the report in the Hudson Valley Post

This isn’t a new occurrence, sewage overspills are common in high population density areas like the Northeast of the US. I’ve pretty much grown accustomed to the idea that if I walk down to the river in the days after a heavy rain, that the whole riverbank is likely to have an odor of sewage, waste and rot, or that I will see lines of garbage washed up past the riverbanks that will tell me how high the river crested. But isn’t it a shame that we have simply gotten used to this? It really wasn’t that long ago, in the scheme of history, that our waterways were pristine. Now the impact of high density living, and human societies and cultures believing in the false notion that you can just throw things “away”. There is no “away” when you can flush a toilet and be part of a chain reaction that results in this:



So what can we do? Start by educating ourselves on how our own communities handle our waste. Where does our garbage and recycling go? A local landfill? Is it shipped away? How does our community handle sewage? Do you have sewage overspills in your community? Most people cannot answer these questions, as the convenience of allowing others to handle it has let us slip into the out of sight, out of mind mentality. Once you know the answers to these questions, and more that will come up for you during your research, get active in your community. And if you are already active, get even more active. Keep pressure on elected officials for alternative and sustainable solutions, work to educate neighbors and friends, get onto boards and committees and push for them to go harder in cleaning up our collective act.

Our municipalities and waste management companies are not going to stop this practice overnight. The transition will take time, and of course financial resources. And of course, there is always resistance to change. But do you want to continue to see tons of raw sewage poured into our waterways? Waves of plastic garbage washing up on our coasts? Whole ecosystems are being affected by our need for convenient removal of waste from our sight-lines, we share in the responsibility for working towards solutions. The waters and the health of our species and our planet depend on it. Please share in the comments any ideas, information, and resources you have that may be helpful to other readers in their communities as they start on or continue their quest to fight for environmental justice and a cleaner, healthier future.


One Comment

  • James Kenny commented on July 24, 2018 Reply

    I’m actually not very sure of how one goes about preventing this sort of thing, but I suspect that part of the answer lies in something along the lines of recycling. By that, I mean that the raw sewage might somehow be reprocessed so that at least part of it (the fecal matter and urine) could somehow be made useful to agriculture as fertilizer in a direct pipeline-to-processing plant manner. That by itself would not eliminate the risk of excess matter spilling over into cleaner waterways, but might lessen the risk of direct sewage spillover from residential and commercial sources. Beyond that, I hope someone has better ideas.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *