NEW YORK — A new study finds that New York city’s sewage treatment system, including its sewage treatment plant, is contributing to the spread of septicemia, a potentially deadly infection caused by bacteria and other toxins in drinking water.
The study, published Wednesday in the journal Environmental Health Perspectives, analyzed sewage samples collected between 2009 and 2013 at two wastewater treatment plants in the boroughs of Staten Island and Queens.
It found that the wastewater treated at the two plants, which have been closed since Hurricane Sandy in December 2012, contained levels of bacteria that are higher than the federal standard.
The samples also showed elevated levels of other pollutants including arsenic, selenium and mercury.
“There’s a concern that these systems are not responding as quickly as they need to,” said study author Jonathan Katz, an epidemiologist at New York University School of Medicine.
“There’s some evidence that these facilities have been at high risk.”
Katz and his co-authors say the findings are “an important step forward” toward improving the city’s wastewater treatment system.
The new study also found that wastewater treatment equipment at the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation and the New Jersey Department of Health and Environmental Control had problems, such as leaks and malfunctioning filters.
Katz said the findings suggest the state and DEEC need to improve the performance of the New Zealand-style sewage treatment systems.
The two New York treatment plants are located on Staten Island, a heavily populated, largely immigrant enclave in Queens.
The plants were established in 1949 to treat sewage for industrial uses, such in the construction of nuclear power plants and other industrial operations.
In 2010, the New Yorkers voted overwhelmingly to establish a sewage treatment facility on Staten island as a way to address the citys high rates of sepsis.
That facility, which is owned and operated by the city, also serves as a public health laboratory and is one of two in New York.
The city’s treatment plant is considered one of the most efficient in the nation.
In 2011, the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommended that all public health facilities and public health departments nationwide, including wastewater treatment facilities, improve their wastewater treatment.
The government also recommended that wastewater facilities, including those in New Jersey and New York, should install more wastewater treatment capacity and reduce their wastewater discharge rates.
But New York Mayor Bill de Blasio, who was elected in 2017, has not ordered the New Yorker’s state and federal governments to take any action on the matter.