Hurricane Sandy exposed critical weaknesses in the affected region's sanitary sewer system. The storm surge flooded and damaged numerous sewage treatment plants, but sewer backup was also a major issue on the micro scale: Many houses that suffered flooding were damaged worst by sewer backups that contaminated lower stories and basements.

New York City policymakers and administrators have been talking for years about how this problem could be prevented. But so far, talking is all they've done, reports local news outlet Sheepshead Bites (see: "Circling The Drain: Patience Wanes For State’s Plan To Fix Sandy Sewage Backups," by Alex Ellefson).

From the report: "“Most of the homes in our community were not devastated by water, they were devastated by sewer backup,' said Community Board 15 chairwoman Theresa Scavo, who was on the committee in Sheepshead Bay and Gerritsen Beach. 'A lot of these homes had three or four feet of backed up sewage. Now, if you have these cut-off valves installed, the flap closes and prevents any backup into a home.'"

Diagram demonstrating mechanics of sewer connection cut-off valve
NY Rising Community Reconstruction Program Diagram demonstrating mechanics of sewer connection cut-off valve

"In southern Brooklyn, the practicality of the sewer cut-off valves generated a lot of excitement among committee members," Sheepshead Bites reports. "However, three years after Sandy and more than a year-and-half after the money was first allocated, many involved in the committees lament they have seen no progress in putting the funds to use." Said Theresa Scavo: "Three years have gone by and I don’t see anything."

But city official Alex Zablocki told Sheepshead Bites that the process is moving forward. After years of study, "Zablocki said NY Rising is on the cusp of rolling out a request for proposals to find a contractor who can identify how to provide homeowners with cut-off valves," the local news site reported.