After a day of counter-charges, the city and state agreed to at least a year-long delay in plans to release 560 million gallons of raw sewage into the East River — a plan Whitman (below) warned would trigger environmental damage.
“We are going to agree to go through further review process to make certain that there are no questions about this, to make certain that it is perfectly safe,” Mayor Giuliani said.
Under the agreement, city, state and federal environmental officials will conduct months of study on the consequences of a massive sewage release. That means the release will be delayed until at least next winter, because the dumping is allowed only in cold weather.
The concession, announced after renewed threats of a federal lawsuit by Whitman, avoided a showdown that would have pitted her against Gov. Pataki and Giuliani — fellow Republicans.
Whitman claimed victory, saying the decision would help preserve New Jersey shellfish beds.
“It is utterly medieval when you talk about putting this kind of raw sewage into the waterways,” Whitman said.
The battle erupted last week, after New York State environmental officials approved the city’s plan for shutting down a lower East Side sewage treatment plant for repair work on two valves.
The shutdown would have released the massive quantity of untreated sewage into the East River over four days, the first release of its kind since 1987.
State and city officials initially said the release would cause few environmental problems.
Whitman, however, warned that the sewage would flow through Lower New York Harbor to the Sandy Hook and Raritan Bay area, damaging shellfish beds there.
Before the agreement, city officials accused their cross-Hudson counterparts of maintaining a sewage double-standard. They said the New Jersey communities of North Bergen, Woodcliff, New Brunswick, Perth Amboy and Rahway have dumped untreated sewage in the shared waterways for many years.
Whitman spokesman Pete McDonough said the city’s planned sewage release would have been far more massive than anything from New Jersey.
Original Story Date: 021997