Two hundred million gallons is a lot of liquid. It’s an amount equal to what could be held in one and a half of the world’s largest supertankers. And it’s how much of another brown, sludgy liquid — partially treated sewage — is escaping from a New Jersey treatment facility into New York Harbor every day, right by the Statue of Liberty.

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From NBC New York:

Human waste has been pouring into New York Harbor from the fifth-largest sewage treatment plant in the nation since it was hit by Sandy, and the operator of the plant cannot predict when it will stop.

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A 12-foot surge of water swamped the Newark plant that serves some three million people when Sandy struck on Oct. 29. The plant has pumped more than three billion gallons of untreated or partially treated wastewater into local waterways since then.

The AP has more:

[The plant] currently is releasing between 200 million and 240 million gallons a day of partially treated wastewater into New York Harbor, the state Department of Environmental Protection said. The wastewater is being treated by chlorine that kills some pathogens.


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suewatersPart of Jersey’s ad hoc sewer system.

For those of you far from New York Harbor (and the large ocean to which it is connected), don’t feel too reassured. According to the organization Green For All, each year 860 billion gallons of untreated sewage is released into U.S. waterways — enough to cover the state of Pennsylvania in sewage an inch thick. If accurate, that means that this spill is about one-tenth of what seeps into our waterways every day, on average.

While unpleasant and temporarily problematic, the long-term effects of the sewage leak will probably not be significant. But the image of sewage surrounding Liberty Island — home to the statue that was dark for five days after the storm — is powerful in its symbolism.

Also: Jersey, amirite?

Hat tip: Atlantic Wire