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For Decades This Pipe Has Spilled Raw Sewage — No Longer

Update Nov. 23: The City of Newburgh has completed emergency repairs and eliminated the dry weather discharge of raw sewage from 6-10 homes on Park Place to the Hudson River.

In May 2014, Riverkeeper publicized the data we’d gathered showing that the Hudson River at the public boat launch in Newburgh frequently showed fecal contamination. Like most Hudson Valley cities, Newburgh has a combined sewer system, resulting in discharges of raw sewage during rain when rainwater infiltrates the same pipes that carry sewage. But water quality near the boat launch was often poor even in dry weather, suggesting that there was more to the story.

Publicizing the results has had an impact.

Within weeks, the City of Newburgh, with Department of Environmental Conservation oversight, had conducted dye testing that identified several properties that had sewer pipes that channeled sewage directly to the Hudson River, rather than to the city’s sewage treatment plant.

And now, after a deeper investigation into part of the city, Newburgh has identified several more properties that have been discharging directly to the Hudson River “for many decades,” and advised the public to avoid contact with the Hudson River in the vicinity of Pier Loun Condominiums and the Newburgh Yacht Club until the pipes can be fixed, according to an advisory issued by the city this week:

“Be advised that an ongoing sewage discharge exists at combined sewer outfall pipe that discharges to the Hudson River at the east end of Park Place. This outfall pipe is designated CSO No. 013, and typically discharges combined sewer to the Hudson River during wet weather precipitation events. During a recent investigation of the City’s sewer mains with a robotic camera, it was discovered that a sanitary sewer main had been improperly connected to this outfall pipe, and is causing a constant dry weather discharge of untreated sewage through CSO No. 013. This sewer main connection has been existing and discharging in this manner for many decades.”

The four properties so far publicly identified with illicit connections were built between 1920 and 1961.

The city has “hired a contractor to perform emergency construction work to install a new sanitary sewer main to direct these sewer flows to the City’s wastewater treatment plant” and eliminate the dry weather discharge of untreated sewage.

This discharge, at the northern edge of the city’s waterfront, is unlikely to explain the poor water quality we’ve measured at the southern edge of the city’s waterfront. Both occur in places where people are likely to come into contact with the water. We’ll continue working with the city as it investigates its sewer system.

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