Environmental Protection

Sewage Problems Caused by Hurricane Sandy

In the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy, millions of gallons of raw sewage are being dumped into New Jersey waterways. Scientists from the University of Delaware are using satellites to predict the sludge’s track into the ocean.

Assistant Professor of oceanography from the College of Earth, Ocean, and Environment, Matthew Oliver, and his students have started using satellites to track raw sewage from New Jersey waterways to the ocean – which is a direct result from Hurricane Sandy.

“Technically, you can’t identify raw sewage from a satellite, but you can find river discharge that you suspect has raw sewage,” said Oliver. “The reason why is because river discharge usually has a very different temperature and color than the surrounding waters.”

Oliver participates in the Mid-Atlantic Regional Association Coastal Ocean Observing System (MARACOOS), which has been carefully following Hurricane Sandy and its after effects. Headquartered at UD, the organization aggregates ocean data collected along the Atlantic coast from Massachusetts to North Carolina to share with researchers, government officials and the public.

As the storm headed up the coast, the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (NJDEP) contacted MARACOOS for information. Xiao-Hai Yan and others worked to install the satellite dish at UD to provide real-time coverage of regional disaster events.

According to NJDEP, Hurricane Sandy damage took several wastewater treatment facilities offline, forcing untreated sewage into certain waterways. Recreational boaters, anglers and crabbers were advised on Friday, Nov. 2, to avoid those waterways and not eat any fish, crustaceans or shellfish from these waters due to contamination from bacteria and viruses.

Affected waterways are located in northern New Jersey and include the Hudson River, Passaic River, Hackensack River, Newark Bay, Kill Van Kull and Arthur Kill, Raritan Bay, Raritan River, Sandy Hook Bay, and northern Barnegat Bay.

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