A new report from the state comptroller estimates that 6.5 billion gallons of combined sewage and storm water were released into the environment last year in New York state. That sewage reached more than 200 water bodies, including rivers, streams and lakes that are used for recreation and in some cases, drinking water.
About half of the state’s sewage overflow comes from New York City.
In many communities in New York, storm water runs into the same system as sewage. During heavyt rains or snow melt, the treatment plants are overwhelmed and forced to discharge raw sewage into creeks and lakes.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency estimates that correcting the problem would cost $5 billion statewide.
While government officials argue amongst themselves over plastic bag bans or fees, consumers and businesses are taking matters into their own hands. The latest object of their wrath: single-use plastic straws.
Some New York businesses have stopped offering the straws completely; others provide alternatives like paper straws, or only hand them out when requested.