We passed the landmark Sewage Pollution Right to Know Law last year so you would be notified where and when sewage is discharged and can avoid it. But the law has yet to be implemented fully or properly, so you still could be entering sewage-contaminated water unaware, even when state and local governments are fully aware of the pollution.
The law requires timely public notification of all sewage overflows from municipal systems including combined sewage and stormwater overflows triggered by rain. The water quality alerts should provide a simple warning, similar to a smog or ozone alert, identifying waters where sewage has recently been discharged.
The Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) does not agree and has excluded combined sewage overflows (CSOs) from their sewage discharge reporting. These CSO discharges account for the vast majority of sewage dumped into our waters – billions of gallons annually. They foul our environment and present a huge public health risk. Yet DEC does not currently plan to include these overflow events in their public notification system.
Your voice will make a difference. Tell Governor Cuomo that the public expects one set of alerts for all municipal sewage discharges as required by the law, and that a “standing advisory” for CSOs on the DEC website is insufficient. Exposure to sewage is a public health threat whether it comes from a planned discharge or an accidental break.