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Ongoing Sewage Discharge at Beacon Harbor Poses Public Health Risk

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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Contact Tina Posterli, tposterli@riverkeeper.org, 914-478-4501 x239

Ossining, NY, September 27, 2011– Raw sewage is flowing into the Beacon Harbor from a pipe at the northeastern corner of the Harbor. Discovered by a member of the public on Saturday, September 17th, the discharge has been flowing for at least 10 days. Riverkeeper sampled the discharge and strongly advises members of the public to avoid contact with the water in Beacon Harbor until the cause of the discharge has been determined and testing confirms that water quality has returned to acceptable levels.

Riverkeeper’s Patrol Boat was on its monthly water quality patrol when the report of the spill was called in to us on the 17th. Lipscomb reported the discharge to the NY State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) through its 24-hour dispatch number on Sunday the 18th. Riverkeeper also notified the Beacon Harbormaster and Beacon Pool staff.

Boat Captain John Lipscomb returned to the harbor on Friday the 23rd to investigate the discharge and sample for sewage contamination and found the discharge was still flowing. The sample taken directly at the discharge pipe hit the limits of Riverkeeper’s on board lab system at >24,196 Enterococcus per 100/ml. That is more than 397 times greater than the EPA guideline for acceptable water quality – 61 Enterococcus per 100/ml

New York State and Dutchess County have no laws that require public notification of a sewage discharge into public waterways such as this, even when the discharge is in an area where the public is known to come into direct contact with the water. Riverkeeper is currently working with State Senator Adriano Espaillat to pass a Sewage Right to Know Law for New York State that will require public notification of all sewage discharges into our waterways. Eleven other states currently have sewage notification laws and some New York counties have one, or are in the process of adopting one.

“Riverkeeper has received confirmation from enforcement officials at the DEC that they are working on stopping this sewage release,” says Lipscomb. “While this spill report works its way through the system the public needs to be notified of the situation. This level of raw sewage can pose a serious health threat to people who unwittingly come into contact with the water. We look forward to a time when all counties and municipalities in New York State make timely public notification a priority when unacceptable levels of sewage are present in our waterways.”

Sewage releases in Beacon are nothing new. Riverkeeper has been receiving reports from concerned citizens in and around Beacon for many years. Riverkeeper filed a Clean Water Act Notice of Intent to Sue against the City of Beacon for chronic sewage releases at the Fishkill Creek in 2004 and again in April 2010. Twenty percent of the water quality samples collected by Riverkeeper in Beacon Harbor failed the EPA guideline for safe swimming. A connection can be seen between poor water quality in the harbor and rainfall. This particular discharge is a dry weather release.

Riverkeeper’s historic water quality data for Beacon Harbor
More on Sewage Right to Know for New York State

More pictures and video of this release available online

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