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Improperly Fitted Nut Said to be Cause of July NYC Sewage Leak

The cause behind a July sewage leak in the Hudson River was probably an improperly-fitted nut on a fuel injector pump, according to a recently released report from the New York Department of Environmental Protection.

A fire at a New York City waste water treatment plant caused millions of gallons of sewage to leak into the Hudson River, which led to Westchester County health officials to issue several advisories and temporarily close beaches such as the Philipse Manor Beach Club in Sleepy Hollow to swimming.

Investigators studied the failed engine's metal and determined that the fuel injector pump's connection was either too tight or too loose, which caused the connection to allow diesel fuel to leak. Investigators said spray from the fuel injector pump hit the extremely hot turbocharger, another part of the engine, and caused the fire.

That fire caused aluminum inlets on the engine to melt and splatter onto the manual shut off valves, investigators said. The aluminum caused the valves to fail and spray even more fuel onto the turbocharger.

“Our opinion is that these valves failures were not a primary source of fuel for the fire,” investigators said in the report. “The fractured valves did become a significant secondary source of fuel for the large fire spread at floor level around the engine and two additional levels below the engine room.”

The fire continued until power to the plant was shut off and the fuel supply pumps stopped, investigators said.

Another possibility, investigators concluded, is that a flexible connector about the fuel header developed a leak and sprayed the turbocharger with diesel fuel. Investigators said they could not determine the exact cause of the fire because crucial evidence may have been destroyed by the fire or when it was extinguished.

The sewage leak caused environmental organizations and local residents to express their concerns about the pollution .

When asked about the recent report, Riverkeeper's Tracy Brown said on Wednesday that “our concern was more the fact that the investigative report didn't also address a response plan.”

Brown noted that when the fire occurred, the treatment plant diverted 200 million gallons of sewage through multiple pipes along the Hudson River, Harlem River, and New York Harbor without notification to the many people swimming and playing in the water who thought they were far enough away from the problem.

Brown also questioned the DEP's water sampling, saying they took data from mid-channel as usual and not near the shoreline, where riverkeeper found very high levels of pollution.

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