Image: A thick haze hangs over the skyline of Lower Manhattan as a ferry crosses the Hudson River in New York
Gary Hershorn  /  Reuters
A thick haze hangs over the skyline of Lower Manhattan as a ferry crosses the Hudson River in New York, July 21, 2011.
msnbc.com news services
updated 7/22/2011 11:41:34 AM ET 2011-07-22T15:41:34

New Yorkers have been warned to stay out of the Hudson and Harlem Rivers on one of the hottest weekends of the year after millions of gallons of untreated sewage discharged from Manhattan into the waterways because of a four-alarm fire that shut down one of the city’s largest sewage treatment plants.

The city's drinking water has not been impacted, officials said, but people have been cautioned not to swim or kayak on the waterways through at least Monday.

The New York City health department also declared large parts of the East River and the Kill Van Kull unfit for swimming through the weekend.

Local authorities did not expect any beaches in the area to be closed because of the spill.

Still, a beach pollution advisory was issued Thursday evening for South, Midland and Cedar Grove Beaches on Staten Island and Sea Gate in Brooklyn, The New York Times reported. Updates were to be posted on the department website, www.nyc.gov/health .

"Right now, there's no impact on public beaches," Commissioner Cas Holloway, of the city’s Department of Environmental Protection, which runs the plant, told The New York Daily News.

"However, you should not be doing contact recreation on the Hudson River,” he told the paper.

Temperatures in the New York area were forecast to soar into the triple digits on Friday .

The city has also warned against eating fish caught in these waterways, NBC New York reported.

‘A very chaotic scene’
Five pump engines caught fire in the machine room of the North River Wastewater Treatment Plant in Harlem on Wednesday and soon began belching heavy smoke.

"There was an explosion and the next thing you saw was a lot of black smoke covering the whole area," Jaime Vergara, a parking attending who works next to the Harlem plant, told the Daily News.

"People were in panic. It was a very chaotic scene," he told the paper.

Firefighters traveled around 400 feet from the plant’s entrance before reaching the machine room, Frank Dwyer, a spokesman for the Fire Department, told The Times.

"The fire was fed by fuel, so they had to put foam on it," he told the paper. “There was intense heat in there.”

Firefighters were able to get the fire under control after about four hours. Two firefighters were treated for minor injuries, Dwyer told The Times.

Story: Felt like 115-120 degrees in parts of East as records fall

The fire was not considered suspicious, officials said.

Gathering data
The plant treats about 120 million gallons of sewage a day, but it can handle up to 340 million gallons when it rains.

"It did significant damage, and we don’t know yet when we will get it back," The New York Times quoted Farrell Sklerov, a spokesman for New York’s Department of Environmental Protection, as saying.

"We do have concerns about the amount of raw sewage entering into the water," New Jersey’s environmental commissioner, Bob Martin, told the New Jersey Star-Ledger.

"Right now we are in the initial assessment phase to gather the right data,” Martin told the paper.

Larry Levine, a water expert for the Natural Resources Defense Council, noted in his blog Friday that New York ironically had celebrated "City of Water Day" last weekend.

"As bad as" this spill "is, there’s an even more disturbing, inconvenient truth about sewage in our water," he wrote. Because of an outdated sewage system, "the city still routinely dumps billions of gallons of raw sewage into local waterways every year when it rains."

© 2013 msnbc.com

Video: Heat wave sparks power grid worries

  1. Closed captioning of: Heat wave sparks power grid worries

    >>> the nation on high alert. we have nbc anne thompson at a power station in brooklyn.

    >> good morning. there are concerns about this heat wave this morning. the first is can power companies across the eastern seaboard hand what is expected to be record demand as millions of americans seek relief in air can being today? and secondly, the very real health threats that are associated with this heat wave . it has already claimed more than two dozen lives. you can see it on people's faces. almost half the country's population sweltering in this heat wave .

    >> you can't move without sweating.

    >> it's really hot. it's ridiculous.

    >> reporter: some stores get in air conditioning units , they go out the toor. tommy anthony bought one for his elderly aunt.

    >> my aunt is 92 years oeld, and she had a little bit of a heart problem and her air conditioner broke today. so she needs one no matter what the cost, no matter what.

    >> reporter: his aunt is one of 8 million new yorkers as temperatures hit 100 degrees and feel like 115. power company says it is ready.

    >> we could handle five days in a row of 100 degrees.

    >> reporter: pjm, the nation's largest independent grid operator managing electricity across 13 states in the mid atlantic and midwest, said it's seeing record demand. as temperatures go up, air quality goes down, adding to the health risks for young and old.

    >> we are concerned about dehydration. it's key for people to stay hydrated, water is really enough for most.

    >> reporter: yet some are feeling a different kind of heat.

    >> i now pronounce you husband and wife.

    >> reporter: these love birds blissfully oblivious to the heat index of 112 in the nation's capital.

    >> i didn't think about the humidity. i married my best friend and the man of my dreams. i'm elated.

    >> reporter: now, a couple of things to keep in mind. first of all, be a good neighbor and check on your elderly neighbors. make sure they have someplace cool to go. here in new york city they've opened some 500 cooling centers. secondly, we can't stress this enough. stay hydrated. drink plenty of water today. and remember your pets because they need water, too. matt and ann, back to you.

    >>> mr. roker is across the street here. any relief in sight this weekend?

    >> you know it's hot when matt lauer breaks out seersucker. that's all i have to say. when you look at the watches, warnings and advisories from texas to nebraska, into new england and air quality alert here in the northeast, red flag alert for bad air quality . look at these temperatures right now. the this is for afternoon high . 103 in philly. could set a record. 102 in new york city . a record as well possible, 98 in virginia beach . charlotte, 100. as you widen out the heat continues to spread in the west. 104 in topeka. 103 in dallas. you can see it's going to feel like 107 in indianapolis. it will feel like 111 in new york city . the good news is, the pattern is changing. it's going to take a little while. right now here's that big upper level ridge, but we're getting a little cooler air coming in. this, though, back in canada, this is where the real relief comes. as we move into the early part of next week, by tuesday, the heat breaks in the north east . seasonal in the mid atlantic states . unfortunately for our friends in the south and the southwest and gulf koes coast the heat goes on.

    >> thank you very much. we'll get the rest of the frask forecast coming up. but let's turn to the idea of how dangerous the temperatures are. we're have dr. nancy snyderman with more tips. just remind us.

    >> the heat wave like this, elderly and the very young people with breathing conditions. but right now, frankly, everyone is at risk. it's a reminder that as many people die of heat-related illnesses than all the natural disasters . number one thing, ann, is called heat stroke . that's where you're literally, your core body temperature goes high, up to 103 degrees. you stop sweating. your skin turns hot, red and dry. h is a medical emergency . you take the cooler and dump the ice on them.

    >> it's he's exhaustion?

    >> not quite as emergent but just as important. you have to break the temperature. and that is you start putting profu -- start sweating profusely. your skin turns pale and sweating and muscle cramps and exhausti exhaustion. another reason to get out of the heat.

    >> before we get to that point you should probably taint take preventive action.

    >> anne thompson mentioned getting hydrated, but don't wait until you're thirsty. hydrate before you go outside. drink lots of water. replacing the salt. this is one of the sports drinks , they have electrolytes in them. if you don't have air conditioning , especially true for the elderly, sometimes afraid to venture out, get to a cooling center . call someone. if you love to exercise, pace yourself. exercise in the morning. and please remember, if you are at risk or someone near you, avoid it. this is not something to be casual about.

    >> nancy snyderman , thank you.

Photos: Heat wave across the US

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  1. James Maxim of Lunenburg, Mass., soaks in the cooling water of the Saco River in Limington, Maine, on Friday, July 22. (Robert F. Bukaty / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  2. Bikers cool off at the BMW Motorcycle Owners of America rally in Bloomsburg, Pa., on July 22. (Jimmy May / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  3. Orient Billie cools off with a fan at Ellis Park in Henderson, Ky., on July 22. (Mike Lawrence / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  4. Susan Fernandez, of Lawrence, Mass., enjoys the spray of a hydrant opened by the city's public works on July 22. (Elise Amendola / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  5. A customer wipes sweat off his forehead after purchasing an air conditioner at a store in New York City on July 22. (Mary Altaffer / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  6. Children at a summer camp in Andover, Mass. throw snowballs and play on a pile of ice shavings delivered from an area hockey rink on July 22. (Elise Amendola / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  7. A fire truck in Linden, Mich., provided this entertainment on Thursday, July 21. (Ryan Garza / The Flint Journal via AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  8. Vanity Mendez, 11, left, Isaiah Rivera, 6, center, and Jonathan Medina, 11, cool off at an open fire hydrant in the East Village neighborhood of Manhattan on Thursday. A heatwave that has enveloped much of the central part of the country for the past couple of weeks is moving east and temperatures are expected to top the 100-degree mark. (Mary Altaffer / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  9. William Dyer, Jr., of Gortham, Maine stays cool seated on his beach chair waist-deep in Sabbathday Lake in New Gloucester, Maine, on Thursday. (Robert F. Bukaty / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  10. Nathan Pakozdi, 9, tends to his family's hogs as they cool off beneath a pair of fans at the Warren County Fair in Lebanon, Ohio, on Thursday. Farmers and other animal keepers are toiling away to keep creatures cool during the hot weather sweeping much of the country. (Al Behrman / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  11. Virginia Carol Thompson, 70, panhandles at the intersection of West Reno and Klein in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma on Thursday. Thompson said when it gets too hot, she stays under the bridge where she sleeps at night. Temperatures in Oklahoma City have exceeded 100 degrees Fahrenheit for 30 days straight. (Brett Deering / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  12. Paving supervisor John Recupero enjoys a piece of watermelon with his crew, as they wait for an additional asphalt truck with temperatures soaring near 100 degrees in Westborough, Mass., on Thursday. (Christine Peterson / Worcester Telegram and Gazette via AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  13. Civil War reenactors sleep in the shade on a blistering hot day at Manassas National Battlefield Park in Virginia on Thursday as they mark the 150th anniversary of the Battle of First Manassas/Bull Run, the first major battle of the Civil War. (Kevin Lamarque / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  14. Swimmers look on as one of the 250 bags of ice is dumped into the Franklin Memorial Swimming Pool in Franklin, Ind., on Thursday. Temperatures are expected to climb into the high 90s with heat index well over 100. (Darron Cummings / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  15. Jay Kennedy organizes fans donated by Comcast-Spectacor to be distributed to seniors at the Philadelphia Senior Center Thursday in Philadelphia. (Matt Rourke / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  16. Rick Vermeulen cools off with a drink from his water cooler, taking a break from the 95 degree heat on Thursday in Bay City, Mich. Vermeulen and his crew from ATT were working on building a new manhole on Midland Street. (Michael Randolph / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  17. Nasier Wright, 4, sits on a basketball near cups of lemonade on the courtyard at the Pennington Court apartments on Thursday in Newark, N.J. Residents of the 223-unit public housing complex gathered outdoors as temperatures neared the 100-degree mark. (Julio Cortez / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  18. Olivia Provis, 6, stands still to have sweat wiped off her forehead by her mother, Angela Provis, right, as they shield themselves from the afternoon sun while waiting for a bus on Thursday in St. Louis. (Jeff Roberson / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  19. DTE Energy employees unload bags of ice at the Gerry Kulick Community Center in Ferndale, Mich. on Thursday where a cooling center was set up for those affected by power outages. (Carlos Osorio / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  20. A very hot and thirsty dog named Buck cools off drinking bottled water poured by his owner Sue Anderson of South Windsor, Conn., during a legion baseball game at the peak of the heat Wednesday afternoon, July 20. A lengthy, blistering heat wave is blanketing the eastern half of the United States. (Jim Michaud / Journal Inquirer via AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  21. Nine-year old Adrienne Curtis douses herself with buckets of cold water on Wednesday afternoon in Peoria, Ill. (Ron Johnson / Peoria Journal Star via AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  22. Leena Allen cools off by standing in front of a misting fan during a visit to the Saint Louis Zoo on Wednesday in St. Louis. Much of the United States is trapped under a heat "dome" caused by a huge area of high pressure that's compressing hot, moist air beneath it, leading to miserable temperatures. (Jeff Roberson / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  23. As temperatures hit triple digits, a zoo keeper at Henry Doorly Zoo in Omaha, Neb., cools off a Double Yellow Headed Amazon parrot with water spray, Wednesday. (Nati Harnik / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  24. Bathers beat the midday heat at the Devil's Pool in Wissahickon Valley Park on Wednesday in Philadelphia. (Matt Rourke / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  25. Jayson Hamler, 7, plays in some water outside a school on Wednesday in Milwaukee. Workers and residents in the city are contending with highest temperatures of the summer season as a prolonged stretch of hot, humid weather takes hold on the upper midwest region of the United States. (Morry Gash / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  26. Vincenzo Vitalb cools off before a baseball game between the Philadelphia Phillies and the Chicago Cubs on Wednesday in Chicago. The afternoon heat index exceeded 100 degrees in the area. (Nam Y. Huh / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  27. Head athletic trainer Eric Claas, left, applies a cold towel to sophomore Cuong Nguyn during a morning football practice at Father Ryan High School on Wednesday in Nashville, Tenn. With the summer heating up, schools are trying to keep their student-athletes off the field during the hottest parts of the day by rescheduling practices and scrimmages for early in the morning or in the evening. (Mark Humphrey / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  28. Christian Rhodes substitutes a water balloon for a baseball as he and his youth baseball team try to beat the heat during a practice at Brandenstein Park in Watertown, Wis. on Tuesday, July 19. (Adam Tobias / The Watertown Daily Times via AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  29. Jonathan Decker, right, from Hot Springs, Ark., and Charlie Woolsey, from Harrison, Ark., tear a roof off a tornado-damaged home as the sun dips low in the sky on Tuesday in Joplin, Mo. Despite a recent heat wave, crews continue to clean up and rebuild nearly two months after an EF-5 tornado destroyed much of Joplin. (Charlie Riedel / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  30. John C. Anderson, of Silvis, Ill., takes a big drink of water next to a sculpture of the Blues Brothers after riding his bike from Silvis to downtown Rock Island, Ill. Tuesday. Anderson rode the approximately 10-miles to Rock Island to perform a couple of heat wave related songs for the downtown lunch-time crowd. (Todd Mizener / The Dispatch via AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  31. Luke McCrory, 5, from Coopersville, cools off in front of a giant fan at the Berlin Fair in Marne, Mich., on Tuesday. (Cory Morse / The Grand Rapids Press via AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  32. Leon Buys is doused in water while taking a break from midway set-up chores at the Dane County Fair in Madison, Wis. Tuesday. Workers and residents in the city are contending with highest temperatures of the summer season as a prolonged stretch of hot, humid weather takes hold on the upper midwest region of the United States. (John Hart / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  33. Five-year-old Dam young Kim, of Korea, makes hand prints in the condensation on one of the windows of a State Capitol doorway while waiting to leave the building with her family, Tuesday, in St. Paul, Minn. The foreign visitors were able to see the Capitol when Gov. Mark Dayton ordered it opened to the public after being closed for 18 days during the state's shutdown. Dew points reached a state record 83 percent and the heat index hit 119 degrees in Minneapolis and St. Paul. (Tom Olmscheid / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  34. A man soaks his feet in a fountain while reading a magazine on the Rose Kennedy Greenway on a warm summer afternoon in Boston, Massachusetts Tuesday. (Brian Snyder / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  35. In Council Bluffs, Iowa, where the heat index made it feel like 126 degrees on Monday, July 18, locals are also dealing with potential flooding from the Missouri River. Here volunteers fill sand bags on Tuesday. (Nati Harnik / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  36. Participants in Drums Across America, a competition featuring eight elite drum and bugle corps from around the country, take a water break Monday, July 18, near Wichita, Kan., during practice. Temperatures rose above 100 degrees across the state. (Mike Hutmacher / The Wichita Eagle via AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  37. Walter Gatewood, 87, sits on his front porch trying to beat the heat in Flint, Mich., Monday. A heat wave smothered the Midwest with temperatures over 100 degrees. (Paul Sancya / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  38. A child cools off in mist at the Henry Doorly Zoo in Omaha, Neb. on Monday. (Nati Harnik / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  39. A sun worshipper floats down Sunset River at Knott's Soak City Water Park in Buena Park, Ca. as temperatures around the county soared Monday. (H. Lorren Au Jr. / Orange County Register via AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  40. Malee, a three-month old Asian elephant, cools off with a spray of water in her wading pool at the Oklahoma City Zoo on Monday. (Sue Ogrocki / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  41. Lillie Walker, 90, accepts bottles of cold water from Bob Sidwell, the City of Jennings housing, streets and parks director, as he checks on the elderly during a heat wave Monday, in Jennings, Mo. (Jeff Roberson / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  42. Emergency personnel assist a woman after she was overcome by heat during the graveside service for Terre Haute Police Department Officer Brent Long in Terre Haute, Ind., Monday. (Darron Cummings / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  43. Jazia Pratt, 8, fills a bucket with water from a fire hydrant in the afternoon summer heat Monday, in Philadelphia. (Matt Rourke / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  44. BALTIMORE, MD - JULY 22: Romona Johnson (L) plays in a fountain at the Inner Harbor with her children Japrea Parker, 12, (C) and Janae Parker, 9, (R) on July 22, 2011 in Baltimore, Maryland. A large heatwave has been crossing the United States and is causing extreme summer temperatures. (Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images) (Rob Carr / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
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Map: Beach report 2011

Check how beaches across the U.S. fare when it comes to pollution.

  1. Above: Map Beach report 2011
  2. Interactive Heat wave

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