NYC, Philadelphia Among US Cities That May Get 'Inundated' With Raw Sewage

Coastal cities such as New York and Boston in the United States are at risk of being submerged by untreated sewage due to combined sewer systems, according to new research. These systems were established in the mid-1850s and collect stormwater and sewage in the same pipes, which are typically directed towards wastewater treatment facilities. However, during periods of heavy rain, these pipes can become overwhelmed and some of the water overflows into natural bodies of water via Combined Sewer Overflows (CSOs).

This issue has the potential to escalate into a public health crisis, as during high levels in receiving water bodies, overflow gates can get stuck, causing sewage and wastewater to back up and spill out onto the streets or even into people’s basements. While federal water policies aim to upgrade water infrastructure to limit these overflows, climate change is predicted to pose additional challenges for these already burdened water systems.

A study, published in the Journal of Water Management Modeling, used detailed water models of flooding and sewer overflows in a flood-prone community in Camden, New Jersey, to predict that changing future climates could cause a 21 percent to 66 percent increase in the volume of fluid that will pass through these waterways. The rising sea level is also expected to make it more challenging for these overflow systems to discharge into local water bodies, increasing the likelihood of street flooding and property damage.

Similar risks may apply to other coastal communities with these overflow systems, such as Philadelphia, New York, and Boston. To address this issue, the researchers from Drexel University are supporting the Camden County Municipal Utilities Authority (CCMUA) in developing strategies to future-proof the water systems and make the neighborhoods more resilient to climate change.

.st1{display:none}See more