Brooklyn Boro

LISTEN: Don’t flush your toilet when it rains. Here’s why.

June 6, 2019 By Scott Enman, Paul Frangipane, Lawrence Madsen
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CSO is the product of a centuries-old sewage system and the thought process of urban planners who couldn’t possibly predict the urban metropolis that is New York today.

“While at the time the cities’ early engineers and city planners saw this combined sewer system as that height of innovation, I don’t think they could have anticipated not only how quickly New York City grew, but how impervious it has become,” said Mikelle Adgate of the city’s Department of Environmental Protection.

Not only is CSO detrimental to our urban environment, it is a significant health risk to those who may come in contact with it, according to Michael Dulong, a senior attorney with clean water non-profit Riverkeeper.

“Some of the dangers of raw sewage are with pathogens and bacteria that can cause illness, that can cause things like gastrointestinal illness, rashes, ear infections, eye infections, and it’s nasty stuff that you don’t want to be swimming in,” Dulong said.

But for clean water activist Christopher Swain, that’s exactly what he did. Swain has swum in Newtown Creek and the Gowanus Canal multiple times as a way to bring attention to the waterways’ toxic conditions.

“I was swimming by floating condoms,” Swain said of his journey through Newtown Creek. “I was swimming by visible floating turds in the water. So that kind of thing is stark evidence of what happens when raw sewage goes straight in because of a stormwater event.”

  • Interview with Mikelle Adgate at 1:05
  • Interview with Michael Dulong at 4:46
  • Interview with Willis Elkins at 9:07
  • Interview with Andrea Parker at 12:40

Brooklyn this Week‘s host Lawrence Madsen is a native New Yorker. He attended Columbia University, and volunteers with the disaster relief group Team Rubicon.

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