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Sewage Flows into Hudson River in a Torrent

The Hudson river is in the news again, for all the wrong reasons.

Civic authorities in the New York state are warning boaters and others who use the Hudson River of the potential health problems from the 7.5 million gallons of raw sewage that reached the river after a main broke Friday afternoon.

The biggest immediate health concern would be for anyone coming in contact with the sewage and ingesting bacteria that could cause a number of digestive problems, including stomach cramps and diarrhea, Winchester county county officials said.

"We've had no cases so far," said Mary Landrigan, a spokeswoman for the county's Health Department. "But we are continuing the advisory until we can gather more data about the impact of the sewage discharge."

People coming in contact with the river along the Westchester side were likely to be exposed to enough contamination that they should disinfect boats, equipment and themselves, health officials said.

On Friday afternoon, residents in the area of the Greystone Metro-North Railroad station in Yonkers called the county after they heard rushing water just north and east of the station.

A concrete pipe, measuring 4 feet in diameter, had broken when a nearby hillside, weakened by April's record rainfalls, broke off a 30-degree slope and slid down, carrying trees with it.

The ground's movement snapped the pipe and allowed raw sewage from as far north as Irvington to flow into a tidal wetlands just east of the railroad tracks and then into the river.

County and state environmental experts estimated that about a half million gallons of sewage ended up in the wetlands area and 7.5 million gallons went into the river.

The leak has not affected train service or residential sewer service, according to county officials.

Workers spent the better part of the next two days and nights building a 400-foot road back to the site of the break and then set up a 200-foot bypass using pressurized steel pipes to get the line reconnected.

The discharge was stopped about 10 a.m. Sunday. Now county officials must determine how stable the hillside is and what will be needed to bolster it enough to insert new concrete pipe.

"There's going to be a lot of work just getting the site prepared," Mike Facelle, Westchester County's director of maintenance said yesterday as he supervised the excavation work. "This is a big job, probably the most serious that I've seen."

Facelle estimated that the repairs could take the better part of the month.

He said an engineer was expected to survey the damage soon and that the state Department of Environmental Conservation was expected at the site today, to assess impact on the habitat.

"It's a delicate ecosystem," said Maureen Wren, a DEC spokeswoman. "We'll be monitoring it to see what kind of remediation is necessary."

The Hudson River is the thirty-third most polluted river in the United States. Contaminants such as PCB's (Polychlorinated biphenyl's) and DDT are present in the Hudson River. It has been declared as a superfund site.

Superfund sites are the nation's worst toxic waste sites and massive clean-up programmes have been organized. About 11 million people in the U.S., including 3-4 million children, live within 1 mile of a federal Superfund site and confront potential public health risks, estimates say.

PCB's and DDT can be very harmful to humans, especially pregnant woman. If pregnant woman eat a large amount of contaminated fish from the Hudson River their children are more likely to be born with birth defects. These contaminants are also known to cause damage to the nervous system, immune system, and the reproductive system.

These contaminants are very dangerous to the surrounding areas because the Hudson River is a very important source of drinking water for much if not all of the people in New York State, activists note.


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