Sewage Leak at Harlem Plant May Force Beach Closures

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Sewage from a Harlem waste water treatment plant damaged in a fire continued to seep into the Hudson River Thursday — causing officials to caution swimmers and boaters to stay out of the water through the weekend and raising the specter of beach closures.

Health authorities as far north as Westchester and Hudson Counties warned swimmers, kayakers, windsurfers and others to stay out of the water until Monday at the earliest.

Manhattan Kayak Company on Pier 66 in Hudson River Park had canceled its tours and classes through the weekend as the advisory stretched as far east as the Verrazano Bridge.

The city's Department of Environmental Protection said it will have to close beaches if the sewage plant remains offline past 5 p.m. on Friday because of the amount of discharged sewage in the area's waterways.

Phillip Musegaas, Hudson River program director for Riverkeeper, said that river had been seen three tidal exchanges by Thursday afternoon, which could have brought sewage as far north as Yonkers.

On a typical day, the plant treats 120 million gallons of wastewater.

The wastewater treatment plant on West 135th Street was shut down Wednesday following a four-alarm fire that raged for three hours in the engine room.

The Riverbank State Park on top of the treatment plant was evacuated and several nearby streets were closed. About 170 firefighters were called to the scene and two of them were treated for heat exhaustion.

The Department of Environmental Protection said there should be no kayaking, windsurfing or swimming in the Hudson River until Monday.

The DEP said it will take more than 48 hours of continuous sewage discharge before city beaches would be significantly affected. The agency said it's working to get the plant running again.

(Julia Longoria for WNYC) Firefighters at the scene of the wastewater treatment plant fire on 135th Street.

(Julia Longoria for WNYC) Firefighters at the scene.