Series on Water Infrastructure Highlights Public Health Concerns


The New York Times is running a series on the worsening conditions of America’s water and wastewater infrastructure, and increased risk of pollution and contamination of our nation’s drinking water. As the documentary Liquid Assets has shown, water infrastructure plays a pivotal role in protecting public health. And even though many upgrades were installed in the 1970s and 80s, thanks to the Clean Water Act of ’72, sewer capacity has still been overwhelmed, resulting in overflowing polluted water entering waterways.

The following is an excerpt from the latest story in the series:

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.

Because water infrastructure, buried deep underground,  is not visible to the general public, it is often not made a priority in upgrades (compare that to upgrades in roads and bridges). But, as we have often seen, this can lead to contamination of our drinking water, resulting in preventably illnesses. It’s yet another way that infrastructure has a profound effect on our daily lives.

Related to this matter, make sure to check out RenewLV’s Regional Water Initiative page, to read about the effort to mobilize community support for regional collaboration on water/wastewater infrastructure. Become a supporter by visiting our Join Us page.

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About Beata Bujalska

Beata Bujalska is the former Campaign Coordinator for Renew Lehigh Valley. She currently lives in Panama, a place that fascinates her due to (among other reasons) its recent development boom.

Posted on November 24, 2009, in Health, Public Infrastructure, Water and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.

  1. If anyone reads the story from NYT they have to conclude that it is time for serious change. Our health is at risk and it is disgusting knowing that our rivers are being filled up with toxins. Time to contact our legislators.

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