Scientists assist public officials in following untreated wastewater

Nov 08, 2012 by Teresa Messmore
True color (left) and sea surface temperature (right) showing slight discoloration and cooler temperatures typical of a river plume from the Hudson River. Credit: Matt Shatley

With millions of gallons of raw sewage dumping into New Jersey waterways following Hurricane Sandy, University of Delaware scientists are using satellites to help predict the sludge's track into the ocean.

"Technically, you can't identify from a satellite, but you can find river discharge that you suspect has raw sewage," said Matthew Oliver, assistant professor of oceanography in the College of Earth, Ocean, and Environment. "The reason why is because usually has a very different temperature and color than the surrounding waters."

Oliver and his students have previously examined the ability of satellites to detect coastal plumes.

Oliver participates in the Mid-Atlantic Regional Association Coastal Ocean Observing System (MARACOOS), which has been carefully following Hurricane Sandy and its after effects. Headquartered at UD, the organization aggregates ocean data collected along the Atlantic coast from Massachusetts to North Carolina to share with researchers, government officials and the public.

As the storm headed up the coast, the New Jersey (NJDEP) contacted MARACOOS for information. Xiao-Hai Yan, Mary A. S. Lighthipe Professor of Oceanography and director of the Center for Remote Sensing, worked to install the at UD to provide real-time coverage of regional disaster events.

"We at UD provide satellite support for MARACOOS," Yan said. "So that is why we have our images focused on that area right now."

According to NJDEP, Hurricane Sandy damage took several wastewater treatment facilities offline, causing untreated sewage into certain . Recreational boaters, anglers and crabbers were advised on Friday, Nov. 2, to avoid those waterways and not eat any fish, or shellfish from these waters due to contamination from bacteria and viruses. Additional advisories were issued on Nov. 5 and Nov. 6

Affected waterways are located in northern New Jersey and include the Hudson River, Passaic River, Hackensack River, Newark Bay, Kill Van Kull and Arthur Kill, Raritan Bay, Raritan River, Sandy Hook Bay and northern Barnegat Bay. 

Explore further: Aging Africa

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

NASA adds up Hurricane Sandy's rainfall from space

Nov 01, 2012

NASA's Tropical Rainfall Measuring Mission, or TRMM, satellite acts as a rain gauge in space as it orbits the Earth's tropics. As TRMM flew over Hurricane Sandy since its birth on Oct. 21 it was gathering ...

Turbulent forces within river plumes affect spread

Aug 08, 2012

When rivers drain into oceans through narrow mouths, hydraulic forces squeeze the river water into buoyant plumes that are clearly visible in satellite images. Worldwide, river plumes not only disperse freshwater, sediments, ...

Recommended for you

Aging Africa

Aug 29, 2014

In the September issue of GSA Today, Paul Bierman of the University of Vermont–Burlington and colleagues present a cosmogenic view of erosion, relief generation, and the age of faulting in southernmost Africa ...

NASA animation shows Hurricane Marie winding down

Aug 29, 2014

NOAA's GOES-West satellite keeps a continuous eye on the Eastern Pacific and has been covering Hurricane Marie since birth. NASA's GOES Project uses NOAA data and creates animations and did so to show the end of Hurricane ...

EU project sails off to study Arctic sea ice

Aug 29, 2014

A one-of-a-kind scientific expedition is currently heading to the Arctic, aboard the South Korean icebreaker Araon. This joint initiative of the US and Korea will measure atmospheric, sea ice and ocean properties with technology ...

User comments : 1

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

Mayday
1 / 5 (1) Nov 08, 2012
Shouldn't there be a national public warning about seafood from these waters? When do experts imagine it may be safe to eat an oyster again? Or are those wonderful days gone for good?