Safe Surfing Alert – Hurricane Sandy Sewage Spills Endanger the Surf Zone

Posted: Nov 05,2012 Written by  Kevin O’Driscoll, Ph.D.

Raw Sewage in the ocean from Hurricane Sandy
Surfers in NY and NJ should be beware that local waters are going to be contaminated with raw sewage from major sewage treatment plants.  This could pose an ongoing health threat to surfers in the coming days and weeks.

Multiple media outlets have publicized spills from Newark Bay, Yonkers NY and other NYC plants on the Hudson as well as local sewerage authorities along the coast which are affected by power outages. 

The lack of power at these facilities has led them to release estimates of more than a billion gallons of raw or partially treated sewage into local waters. In New Jersey the state Department of Environmental Protection has stated they will be monitoring ocean water for sewage related bacteria. 

Public health authorities including the NJ DEP are cautioning against recreational exposures and gathering of shellfish from impacted waters.

Raw sewage contains multiple infectious agents including bacteria that can cause stomach ailments such as diarrhea and stomach aches, flu-like symptoms, sinus infections, skin infections, and also viruses which can cause hepatitis and other diseases.   Raw sewage will become mixed with ocean waters along the coastal zone due to tidal mixing and currents, and its spread can be affected by winds and waves.  This mixing is gradual and takes place over a period of days and weeks following release of sewage.  

Surfers are cautioned to limit exposures to potentially contaminated waters in the Sandy impacted waters.  If you, or a friend, should become sick after surfing, the illness should be reported to a doctor and treated as recommended. 

The Surfers Environmental Alliance is a non-profit organization SEA is committed to the preservation and protection of the environmental and cultural elements that are inherent to the sport of surfing. Our goals are achieved through grassroots efforts, community involvement, education, and humanitarian efforts. We engage in projects that strive to conserve the quality of our marine environment, preserve or enhance surf breaks, protect beach access rights, and safeguard the coastal surf zone from unnecessary development.

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