Superstorm Sandy released 11 billion gallons of sewage from East Coast treatment plants into bodies of water from Washington, D.C., to Connecticut, according to a report released Tuesday by a science journalism group.
Princeton, N.J.-based Climate Central said that future sewage leaks are a major risk because rising sea levels can make coastal flooding more severe.
The group, which compiled data from state agencies and treatment plant operators, did not look at the specific environmental or public health impact of the sewage overflows after Sandy, which struck in late October. But it said that bacteria in sewage can spread water-borne illnesses and have a particularly bad effect on shellfish.
In New Jersey, officials spent months monitoring shellfish beds for contamination and reopened the last of them in mid-April, said Larry Hajna, a spokesman for the state Department of Environmental Protection.
The collective overflows — almost all in New York and New Jersey and due to storm surges — would be enough to cover New York City’s Central Park with a pile of sewage 41 feet high, Climate Central said.
About one-third of the sewage was not treated at all and the rest was not completely treated.