These contaminants are partially to blame for the Hudson River's notorious reputation of being polluted. The Clean Water Act 30 years ago first forced cities to install or improve sewage treatment facilities. Now, under the same law, state and environmental regulators have cracked down on the older combined sewer lines like the one in Hoboken, which continue to pollute the harbor's water.
The topic has been important for many politicians and environmental groups, especially considering that river enthusiasts are looking to the river more than ever for recreational activities such as kayaking and sailing.
At an official ribbon cutting ceremony, representatives from the city and the North Hudson Sewerage Authority unveiled three new facilities that would help control the amount of solid waste that is discharged into the Hudson River. Within the next week, three "combined sewer overflow" abatement projects will be fully operational, according Fred Pocci, the executive director of the sewerage authority.
In addition to cleaner water, the completion of the projects means the city will be able to reopen several streets that were closed for the better part of a year. The first project is located north of the ferry terminal near the end of Newark Street, the second is just north of the 333 River St. residential building at Fourth Street and Sinatra Drive South, and the third is near the corner of 11th and Hudson streets. "These projects are 99 percent complete and these roads should be reopened within a week," said Pocci. According to Pocci, a fourth facility north of 14th Street off of Hudson Street will begin construction in the next couple of weeks.
What they do
"These projects will allow us to remove solid floating materials that are a half inch in diameter or larger and prevent these materials from ever reaching the Hudson River," said Pocci at the ribbon cutting ceremony. He added that the facilities also allow the city to meet several requirements of the Clean Water Act. In total, the NHSA has eight "combined sewer overflow" abatement projects in Hoboken, Weehawken, and West New York at a total cost of approximately $26 million, according to Pocci.
Combined sewer overflows (CSO) are remnants of Hoboken's early infrastructure. Many years ago, cities such as Hoboken built combined sewer systems for collecting both waste water and storm water. These combined sewers are still operating today.
During dry weather, the combined sewers do not pose a problem and can effectively channel domestic and industrial waste to the treatment plants. But during heavy rains, the sewers do not have the capacity to carry the combined rainwater and waste water; therefore, a portion of the combined flow is discharged into the river.
According to the Environmental Protection Agency, 1,200 billion gallons of combined raw sewage and storm water are discharged into U.S. streams, lakes, rivers and estuaries each year. The EPA, through the National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System, provides policy guidance to local, state, and federal authorities on how to meet the goals of the federal Clean Water Act.
In both New York and New Jersey, there are several large CSO abatement projects underway. The three projects in Hoboken are called "solid floatable chambers" and are designed to reduce or eliminate the visible solid waste that is often present in CSO discharges. The abatement facilities use the passive energy of the effluent stream to drive the floatable materials that are a half-inch and larger through a large metal grate. Whenever there is a heavy rain, workers from the NHSA will use a specially designed truck to dispose of the solid waste.
As Pocci points out, the system does not keep pollutants from getting into the river, but does filter out solid material which protects the aesthetics of the waterfront and beaches in the metro area.