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In Brief

Hurricane Sandy Unleashed 11 Billion Gallons of Sewage

If you pooled all the spilled sewage let loose by Hurricane Sandy, you would be able to bury New York's Central Park under nearly four stories of waste, according to a new report.

In the wake of the monster storm, 11 billion gallons of sewage seeped into rivers, lakes and other waterways that people depend on for food, health and recreation, say scientists with Climate Central, a research and public outreach organization. Most of the overflows took place in New York and New Jersey as a result of the historic storm surge that flooded sewage treatment facilities along the East Coast.

In New York City, there were six spills bigger than 100 million gallons and 28 larger than 1 million gallons, according to the report. The biggest single overflow occurred in New Jersey's Passaic Valley Sewerage Commission, sending 840 million gallons of untreated sewage into Newark Bay in the first week after Hurricane Sandy hit, followed by another 3 billion gallons of partially treated sludge over the next two weeks while the plant remained crippled. The report warns that sewage treatment plants could be increasingly vulnerable to major failures if climate change pushes sea levels higher and brews more intense coastal storms as expected.

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Megan Gannon
Megan has been writing for Live Science and since 2012. Her interests range from archaeology to space exploration, and she has a bachelor's degree in English and art history from New York University. Megan spent two years as a reporter on the national desk at NewsCore. She has watched dinosaur auctions, witnessed rocket launches, licked ancient pottery sherds in Cyprus and flown in zero gravity. Follow her on Twitter and Google+.