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Watchdog Report Prompts Sewer Repairs in Kingston

Twaalsfkill Brook-crDanShapley_5683

Twaalsfkill Brook, Dan Shapley / Riverkeeper
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On Nov. 10, Riverkeeper reported to the City of Kingston observations of a raw sewage discharge to the Twaalsfkill Brook, a small tributary of the Rondout Creek.

Twaalsfkill Brook, Dan Shapley / Riverkeeper

Twaalsfkill Brook, Dan Shapley / Riverkeeper

Three things indicated a spill of raw sewage was ongoing when Riverkeeper investigated: 1. A pipe was discharging during dry weather. 2. The water is a murky, gray color indicative of sewage. 3. Brown algae is growing on the rocks. The watchdog had also reported a strong odor previously, though there was no strong odor at the time we made our observations.

The city had previously been alerted to the discharge Nov. 6 by a resident whose home abuts the brook. The same watchdog’s call to Riverkeeper prompted our investigation. Riverkeeper’s report prompted or coincided with the city’s decision to sample water and confirm that sewage was in fact being discharged.

The Daily Freeman, using Sewage Pollution Right to Know alert required once the city confirmed that sewage was flowing, estimated that as of Nov. 16, 57,000 gallons of raw sewage had been discharged into the small brook. The city has been disinfecting the discharge, an unfortunate band-aid that kills some disease-causing pathogens, but which also threatens to poison life in the brook.

The city is investigating the cause of the spill, and will develop a fix based on its investigation. Meanwhile, the flow of partially disinfected sewage continues at an estimated 20 gallons per minute.

The same brook has been fouled in the past, as recently as 2013, as infrastructure failures related to the city’s problems with the Washington Avenue tunnel, which have also caused a sinkhole. Both the sewer problems and sinkhole amount to expensive responsibilities for the small city. In that sense, this spill is emblematic of a statewide problem. Our water infrastructure is in disrepair, and even cities like Kingston that are trying to invest often fall short of the funding needed. Communities have requested over $6 billion in state loans for wastewater projects that are ready to implement in the coming year, but there is expected to be less than $500,000 available to meet that demand.

Riverkeeper and a growing coalition are asking Gov. Cuomo to include $800 million for wastewater and drinking water infrastructure in the next state budget, to help narrow the gap in available funding and assist communities that have invested as much as they can, within the bounds of the state’s tax cap.

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