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NJ SIERRA CLUB: Atlantic City Sewage Leak Shows Sign of Bigger Problems


A sewage leak near Bader Field in Atlantic City is a huge public health risk. Sewage seeped into the area around Bader Field, the Great Thorofare, the Beach Thorofare and the Inside Thorofare after a 40-year-old main on the west side of the former airport was discovered ruptured on Saturday. The Atlantic County Utilities Authority has been working since Saturday to repair and redirect the line. The Atlantic City Health Department urges people to not swim, fish, crab, kayak or use personal watercraft in the area. Also, residents and businesses in the Chelsea Heights section of Atlantic City as well as in Ventnor, Margate, and Longport are asked to conserve water to minimize flow through the damaged line. Jeff Tittel, Director of the New Jersey Sierra Club released the following statement:

“The ruptured sewer pipe spewing sewage into waters around Atlantic City is a huge health risk. This incident is a sign of a much bigger problem with our aging water infrastructure throughout the state. This sewer main was over 40 years old, which shows that our old infrastructure causes pipes to break and leak. New Jersey cities like Atlantic City have old outdated pipes in our streets and communities and many go back to the Victorian Era. This outdated water infrastructure can also add toxins such as lead to our drinking water, while causing us to lose massive amounts of water. Now people in Atlantic City as well as in Ventnor, Margate, and Longport are being asked to conserve water until this problem is fixed, but they also could be threatened by this contamination. This shows that we desperately need to fix our old leaky pipes to protect our health and our environment.”

“It is important that this sewage leak did not happen during a major storm because if it did sewage could have further threatened communities. We are still concerned that people may be exposed to this contamination through swimming, fishing, and crabbing in the area. Hopefully, people do not use the nearby waterways, but if they don’t clean everything up and make sure there are no future problems there could be a public health disaster. With more climate change impacts like sea level rise and storm surges, the risk of failing water infrastructure will increase. Unfortunately, for 30 years we’ve heard water companies and other groups discussing the water crisis and problems with old pipes and pollution. For 30 years they’ve done nothing to fix it. We know what the problem is but we need real action to get it done.”

“Instead of fixing our problems, the Christie Administration has looked the other way and rolled back environmental protections. Overall we need more than $45 billion to fix our water and sewage infrastructure. We need at least $13 billion just to fix our combined sewer overflow systems. 30 percent of our pipes are leaking and we need $8 billion to fix leaky pipes. After Hurricane Sandy, we had over one hundred sewage plants knocked out and these facilities must be retrofitted so we can handle future flooding and severe storms. This has caused billions of gallons of untreated sewage into our waterways. We also have problems with infiltration and inflow that causes wastewater overflows into the pipes in the collection system.”

“We’ve already identified the problems with New Jersey’s drinking water supply and infrastructure. Private water companies don’t want to spend the money because they want a better rate of return that is so high that the BPU would never approve it. They don’t want to borrow the money either, so they don’t get in trouble with their foreign owners. The public companies don’t want to raise rates either to fix the problems because they don’t want the ratepayers or voters to get angry. Whether it’s old pipes leaking out water, contaminates like lead threatening our children, or problems with Combined Sewer Overflows, we will need the next Administration to take action and protect our drinking water supply and infrastructure.”