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Kingston Violates Sewage Pollution Right to Know Law

For Immediate Release
Contact: Tina Posterli, 914-478-4501 x 239 or [email protected]

Riverkeeper water quality tests show high levels of fecal contamination as sewage continues to flow into Twaalfskill Brook for ninth day

Ossining, NY – July 15, 2013 – An ongoing sewage release into Twaalfskill Brook, a tributary of Rondout Creek, is in its ninth day but the Kingston Wastewater Treatment Plant has yet to notify the public as required by the Sewage Pollution Right to Know Law that went into effect May 1st. Local resident, Rob Ferris, reported the discharge to the City of Kingston, Ulster County, Riverkeeper and local press outlets on Monday, July 8th. Kingston reported the discharge to the NY State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) on the same day, estimating it as a 500,000 gallon sewage release that will run for approximately 10 days.

Responding to Ferris’s Watchdog tip, Riverkeeper collected water quality samples in the brook on Tuesday, July 9. Samples at the discharging pipe and downstream from the discharge had fecal contamination levels more than 1,000 times the EPA federal guidelines for safe swimming and primary contact– this despite the fact that the city is also dumping chlorine into the discharge. “Adding chlorine to sewage discharges of this size is an ineffective and harmful response,” said Riverkeeper’s Patrol Boat & Water Quality Program Director, John Lipscomb. “The chlorine is not protecting the public from unsafe levels of bacteria and it poses a severe risk to the wildlife in the stream.”

For Rob Ferris and his family, the sewage discharges into the Twaalfskill have been an ongoing problem ever since they moved to Wilbur Avenue five years ago. “It’s been going on for five years, since August 2008, on and off,” Mr. Ferris said. “I have two kids at home, my boy is five and my girl is 10. How do you tell them to stay away from the water?”

Exposure to fecal contaminated water can lead to a wide variety of illnesses such as E. coli, hepatitis and giardia. Children, the elderly and people with compromised immune systems are at greater risk of contracting chronic illnesses from sewage-contaminated water. “The most important action that a community like Kingston can take when they have a sewage discharge is to immediately notify the public that may come into contact with that water,” said Tracy Brown, Water Quality Advocate for Riverkeeper. “Notification not only protects the public from exposure to sewage, it also rallies public support for needed investment in local wastewater infrastructure–the source of the problem.” Kingston has popular swimming, kayaking and boating spots on Rondout Creek and the Hudson River.”

Kingston has documented multiple areas of their wastewater infrastructure in need of repair and upgrades. Some of these critical repairs as languishing for want of funding, leading to more costly repairs like sinkholes and increased legacy contamination–when fecal matter builds up in the sediment only to be re-suspended by swimmers, boaters and weather events, extending the life of the pollution.

Riverkeeper is the only source for fecal contamination data in the Hudson Valley region. Riverkeeper’s ongoing water quality study, which includes three locations on the Rondout Creek, publishes data online each month (May through October), has led to an increased awareness of this harmful pollution and to important policy changes such as the Sewage Pollution Right to Know Law that went into effect May 2013. With citizen scientists as partners, Riverkeeper is also testing the water on 160 miles of tributaries, including the Rondout Creek and Wallkill River. The data is to be published online in the fall.

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