Riverkeeper > News & Events > News > Water Quality > Riverkeeper: Sewage Reporting Law Serves Public Health and Planning

Riverkeeper: Sewage Reporting Law Serves Public Health and Planning

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Contact: Tina Posterli, 516-526-9371, tposterli@riverkeeper.org

Ossining, NY — May 6, 2013 — As of May 1st the Sewage Pollution Right to Know (SPRTK) Law, which Riverkeeper was instrumental in getting passed last year, is now in effect across New York State. This law requires public notification when raw and unpermitted partially-treated sewage is discharged into our waterways. The law’s notification requirement includes accidental discharges as well as combined sewage overflows (CSOs) which account for billion gallons of sewage and stormwater flowing into New York waterways each year, approximately 30 billion gallons of which comes from 14 communities on the Hudson River.

The law also requires public notification and annual reporting by the Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC). The DEC is currently working on regulations that will specify how public wastewater treatment plants and operators of municipal sewage system are to notify the public. They have announced that those regulations will be available in draft form for public comment this fall.

In the meantime, the dischargers must report sewage releases to the DEC, the Department of Health and local elected officials in the affected communities. DEC has created a web page where these reports will be posted. DEC has also posted a map showing the location and permit information on the hundreds of CSO outfalls in the state.

These are very important and useful interim steps toward the full implementation of SPRTK.

Following is a statement from Tracy Brown, Riverkeeper’s Water Quality Advocate:

“Riverkeeper supports DEC’s efforts to develop regulations that result in consistent, rapid and widespread notification whenever sewage is discharged. Notification of discharges from combined sewage overflows are of particular importance given the volume of sewage they release to our waterways and the high concentrations of sewage-related pathogens in those discharges.

Riverkeeper’s sampling data on the Hudson shows that sewage pollution tends to remain near the shoreline where the sewage is released. Some communities on the river have consistently good water quality when we test for fecal contamination. Many communities have a variety of contamination levels, typically caused by wet weather, but sometimes due to accidents or ongoing releases in dry weather. At those locations, public notification is particularly important to protect the public and build support for wastewater infrastructure improvements that can eliminate the sewage pollution.

Sewage contains a wide variety of disease-causing pathogens that pose a serious public health risk. Through consistent and readily available public notification, this law will protect people from unnecessary exposure to sewage.

This legislation received overwhelming support from the public and we are delighted that starting this month New Yorkers will get the greater transparency on this issue that they deserve. Riverkeeper believes that water quality alerts should be delivered to the public in the same manner as weather, traffic, smog and ozone alerts.”

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