Health Hazard In Hackensack

Raw Sewage Overflows Into City Streets


By Hugh Carola


As part of our ongoing efforts to educate the public on the effects of Combined Sewer Overflows (CSOs) in our watershed, Hackensack Riverkeeper is working with the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection to identify instances of unpermitted discharge of raw sewage into the Hackensack River or its related waterways. Four communities in our watershed, Hackensack, Jersey City, North Bergen and Ridgefield Park, operate Combined Sewer Systems (CSSs) with a total of 29 CSO points located along the lower section of the River.


CSS’s are 19th century vintage systems that are designed to collect stormwater as well as wastewater. During relatively dry weather, they deliver this com bined flow to treatment plants but during rain events the increased flow often overwhelms these antiquatedsys tems and they overflow all manner of filth into local waterways.


In no place is this problem more apparent than on River Street in Hackensack - one of the city’s busiest thoroughfares. During and after almost every rainy day, the contents of a city sewer line bubble up to the surface through the manhole at the intersection of River and Van Wetering Place. When that happens, literally tens of thousands of vehicles drive through this unhealthy and foul-smelling mess until it subsides. To make matters worse, as long as the sewer system is overwhelmed, the sewage flows directly from the street into the Hackensack River


Since mid-October, numerous calls to the NJ Department of Environmental Protection’s Hotline (1-877-WARN DEP) have resulted in two Notices of Violation being issued to the city for unpermitted discharge of raw sewage into the river. As it stands now, the city has submitted preliminary plans to the NJDEP for addressing this ongoing problem. Hackensack Riverkeeper has also offered to assist the city in obtaining the federal funds necessary to conduct a comprehensive evaluation and create an action plan to fix this very broken system.


“This is by no means a new problem in Hackensack but it is one whose time has come,” said Captain Bill Sheehan, executive director, Hackensack Riverkeeper. “How long are we going to tolerate seeing the contents of our toilets flowing down our streets and into the river?”

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