Human waste has been pouring into New York Harbor from the fifth largest sewage treatment plant in the nation since it was hit by Sandy, and the operator of the plant cannot predict when it will stop.
A 12-foot surge of water swamped the Newark plant that serves some three million people when Sandy struck on Oct. 29. The plant has pumped more than three billion gallons of untreated or partially treated wastewater into local waterways since then.
Mike DeFrancisci, executive director of the Passaic Valley Sewerage Commission, would only say "ASAP" when asked when repairs to the sprawling facility could be made.
Until then, the main outfall will continue dumping millions of gallons of partially treated human waste a day at a point close to the Statue of Liberty across from Manhattan.
"We've never had the facility flood like this," he said.
Pathogens in partially treated waste are a health hazard and public safety threat, officials said.
Fishing, crabbing and shellfishing bans in the New Jersey waters of the harbor will remain in effect, said Larry Ragonese, a Department of Environmental Protection spokesman.
The New York City Department of Environmental Protection also issued an advisory to residents to avoid contact with the water.
While no target date has been set for repairs at the plant to be completed, DeFrancisci said he expected the facility, which has miles of underground chambers and pipes, to be redesigned to withstand the new reality of storms like Sandy.
"Underneath it would be no different than being in a battleship, making sure the doors are watertight," DeFrancisci said.