Date of Award

Spring 5-11-2022

Degree Name

Bachelor of Arts (BA)


Environmental Studies


John Van Buren


This paper examines the role and effectiveness of Water Pollution Control Plants (WPCPs) in remediating the negative environmental impacts caused by the release of raw sewage in NYC waterways. As global climate patterns shift and storms become more prevalent in coastal cities, the probability of flooding and consequently combined sewage overflows (CSOs) increases. This paper investigates the long-term environmental impacts of untreated wastewater caused by CSOs on two NYC water bodies with similar ecological and historical functions. Chapter 1 utilizes ecological and quantitative data from various sources such as the findings of the NYC Department of Environmental Protection (NYC DEP) on the health of local waterways, studies conducted by the United States Environmental Protection Agency (U.S. EPA) on the Gowanus canal, and various private and public research studies which look at the origin, nature, and impacts of raw, untreated sewage in aquatic environments. Chapter 2 examines, compares, and contrasts the similar environmental histories and functions of the East River and the Gowanus Canal within the last two hundred years. Chapter 3 then discusses the many ecological implications of wastewater in marine ecosystems and how these changes impact human health. Chapter 4 analyzes the different federal and local environmental policies implemented for the East River and the Gowanus Canal. This chapter also looks at the effectiveness of these policies and assess whether there are environmental injustices caused by them by comparing water quality data with public health and community wealth data. Chapter 4 also discusses the ten proposed infrastructure initiatives under PlaNYC for water quality improvement of NYC waterways. Finally, based on the environmental history, ecological implications, cost-benefit analysis, and sociological implications examined in chapters 2-4, chapter 5 presents comprehensive policy recommendations to mitigate the social and environmental impacts of combined sewage overflows and presents an argument for the implementation of more wastewater treatment facilities across the city to combat the negative impacts of CSOs.