During the hurricane, 10 out of 14 sewage treatment plants were damaged, causing about 500 million gallons of untreated sewage to end up in city waterways. But Mayor Michael Bloomberg said Monday the damage could have been far worse. NY1's Josh Robin filed the following report.
Generators and a lack of major sewage overflow helped alleviate what could have been an even more extraordinary amount of damage done to the already devastated Staten Island.
But credit is also due to the workers at this wastewater facility who a few years ago insisted the generators be put inside.
"The talk was to put [generators] down in the back of the plant where there was a low-lying area, prone to flooding," said Phillip Rocle from the Department of Environmental Protection. "We insisted they install new ones up here -- which also added to keeping us in operation that night."
On the night of Hurricane Sandy, sea surges overwhelmed other treatment plants that weren't as well prepared.
One plant on Long Island suffered so much damage that until the end of last month it was discharging partially treated sewage from 40 percent of Nassau County's residents.
"There's not really a lot of luck involved here," Bloomberg said. "You make the investments and you reap the rewards. You don't and you suffer."
Congressman Michael Grimm has led complaints about sewage in Dongan Hills on Staten Island but city officials insist it's just mud from a flooded creek.
On Monday, Bloomberg toured the facility where Rocle worked 32 straight hours after Sandy. The facility, which serves about half of Staten Island, processed about three times the normal amount of waste in that span.
"We had to stay here," Rocle said. "In fact, at one point we had no choice because we became an island and couldn't even leave if we wanted to."
Another advantage of the facility is that although it's near the water's edge, it was built during the Ed Koch administration 18 feet above the sealine. So unlike other city plants, like one in Rockaway Beach, during the surge the water never rushed in.
Power went out at several major pump stations and about half a billion gallons of sewage and water was dumped into waterways.
While repairs continue, everything is now functioning.
That gives them time to prepare for future floods.