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Pumps Now Working At Harlem Sewage Plant; Beaches Could Open Soon

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) -- New York City health officials hope to lift advisories at some area beaches forced to close due to a massive sewage spill in the Hudson River.

On Friday, the hottest day of the year, featuring record 104-degree temperatures in Central Park, some beaches were still closed. Environmental officials were out on a boat near Washington Heights in the afternoon, testing the safety of the water, reports CBS 2's Wendy Gillette.

But the danger didn't stop some swimmers from taking a dip at South Beach on Staten Island.

WCBS 880's Rich Lamb With An Update From The City


The water beckoned in the shadow of the Verrazano Bridge as sunbathers sizzled in the stifling heat. But the city Health Department continued warning beach goers to stay out of the water at South Beach, Midland Beach and Cedar Grove Beach on Staten Island and Sea Gate in Brooklyn.

"For people who are particularly at higher risk for infection, if they were to swim in that water there's potential for them to be sick," Health Department Commissioner Dr. Thomas Farley said.

Environmentalists agreed with the commissioner, but told CBS 2's Hazel Sanchez they are not seeing the type of contamination some expected.

Queens College environmental microbiology professor Greg O'Mullan, along with clean water advocacy group "Riverkeeper," have been testing water samples up and down the Hudson and all bodies of water potentially affected by the sewage leak.

O'Mullan said Friday night the latest results show areas with high bacteria are not widespread.

"As of mid-afternoon yesterday, was restricted to the area south of the George Washington Bridge. When you got down to the Battery we were no longer detecting a strong signal," O'Mullan said.

"We've been doing work on the Gowanus Canal and New Town Creek and I've seen worse in those water ways after a regular old rainstorm," added John Lipscomb of Riverkeeper.

It all stems from Wednesday's fire in the engine room of the North River Waste Water Treatment plant in Harlem. The plant's pumps were back online on Friday afternoon and the discharge of sewage stopped by around 9 p.m.

"Both of the two engines that were working on to get the plant up and running again are now operating," Department of Environmental Protection head Cas Holloway said.

WCBS 880's Sean Adams On Manhattan's West Side


The mishap was distressing for Columbia University professor Kathi Elizabeth, who brought her students to the Hudson on Friday morning. Signs at the river warned against swimming and water sports.

"I was actually very upset about it. I'm actually a big fan of the Hudson river. I actually go kayaking in the free kayaking they offer," Elizabeth said.

At South Beach, the Dreshaj family refused to heed the advisories.

"I don't see anything and the water's pretty clear, so I'm happy," one child said.

But others had a much different reaction. Diane Canterino of Staten Island said she didn't see signs posted at South Beach and went into the water. That was before Gillette told her what was happening.

"Oh that's horrible. Oh is that right? We better leave now, Donna, what do you think?" she said.

Restrictions are even in place up the river beyond New York City.

WCBS 880's Catherine Cioffi In Westchester County


The Westchester County Health Department is also telling would-be swimmers, wind surfers and kayakers to avoid contact with the water through this weekend.

WCBS 880's Levon Putney In New Jersey


There is good news however, for those on the Jersey Shore. The sewage leak should not hurt any summertime beach fun south of Sandy Hook.

"We do not expect it ever to go to those beaches," said New Jersey DEP commissioner Bob Martin.

Martin said water conditions along the Hudson between the George Washington Bridge and Verrazano-Narrows Bridge are a whole different matter.

Like New York City, NJ DEP is recommending no swimming or kayaking.

"We're also recommending that they not fish or crab in the rivers and in the harbor area right now," Martin said.

Please offer your thoughts in the comments section below.

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