Sandy and Sewage: Why We Underestimate the Costs of Climate Change

Sandy and Sewage: Why We Underestimate the Costs of Climate Change

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The New York Times recently printed a story describing how the sewage systems of New York and New Jersey were badly damaged by Hurricane Sandy:

Hundreds of millions of gallons of raw and partially treated sewage from crippled treatment plants have flowed into waterways in New York and New Jersey, exposing flaws in the region’s wastewater infrastructure that could take several years and billions of dollars to fix.

One could be forgiven for seeing this as just one more article identifying the harms from Sandy, but it illustrates something else. If you had known in advance that Sandy would hit the Northeast as it did, the chances are good that you could have predicted many of the consequences. It was no surprise that power went out, that houses were damaged and destroyed, that people were stranded, and so on. You might not, however, have immediately thought about a failure of the sewage system. Yet this particular consequence will be among the most long-lasting and expensive to emerge from Hurricane Sandy.

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