Combined Sewage Overflows—CSOs—occur during rain, generally, when the combination of wastewater and rainwater overwhelm the city's water-treatment facilities, releasing raw sewage into nearby waterways. Less than an inch of rainfall is sometimes enough; it happens dozens of times a year, and will only get worse as more and more people move in on top of Brooklyn's ancient sewer system. In 2010, the L's Henry Stewart reported on the coming literal shitstorm in North Brooklyn (where the Newtown Creek was also Superfunded, shortly after the Gowanus):
Thies, who once served as former Councilman David Yassky's chief of staff and as the chair of Brooklyn Community Board 1's environmental committee, tells me that the sewer system in North Brooklyn was built to accommodate an industrial neighborhood, and that it's "woefully inadequate" to handle the stress from the residential neighborhood that uses it now.
The issue of updating North Brooklyn's sewer system arose during the 2005 rezoning process, but has still gone largely unaddressed. For now, the city has implemented a stopgap measure by installing "bladders"—essentially, balloons that remain empty until times of excess. But, Thies stresses, this is not a long-term solution. The bladders alone won't be enough to accommodate the coming throngs.
The EPA wants the city to do a better job preventing CSOs; "sources" pushed back by telling the Post about how much it cost to construct a new runoff-retention facility last year.
Now. For those of you just joining us, the Post's specialty is to frame sensational or local-interest news in such a way as to reinforce, in the unwary and apolitical reader, conservative prejudices. I only mention this because the way Calder and his editors frame the story is with the headline "Gowanus cleanup to be taxing," and with a lede expressing shock that "The feds’ Superfund cleanup of Brooklyn’s toxic Gowanus Canal could sock taxpayers with a bill of hundreds of millions of dollars."
The city's own Department of Environmental Protection acknowledges the problem of CSOs, and touts recent and coming improvements to our sewer system, including several new retention plants, increasing their capacity during storms, so that the city's waterways can be safe to use after it rains.
And yes, editors of the Post, "our tax dollars" do in fact pay for, you know, municipal services.
It's astonishing to game out the Post's strategies sometimes with stuff like this. Do they actually want to sway public sentiment against the city spending more money on upgrading the sewer and water treatment infrastructure? I mean, even pretty hardcore libertarians don't want to be overwhelmed with untreated sewage all the time (they're full enough of their own shit as it is). Are they just so overwhelmed by their own talking points that they now reflexively bleat out aggrievedness at any government initiative? Or is it all part of a grand Murdochian strategy to undermine the legitimacy of the EPA on behalf of business?