Discharge Source and Duration
A member of the public discovered the discharge on September 17th, 2011. Riverkeeper began collecting water samples at the site on September 18th. On 11/17/11, two months after the initial discharge report, inspection by Riverkeeper showed that the sewage discharge had finally ended.
Response to Discharge
Riverkeeper reported the discharge to the NY State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) through its 24-hour dispatch number on Sunday the 18th after visiting the site and confirming the citizen watchdog report. We also notified the Beacon Harbormaster, Beacon’s Mayor and Beacon Pool staff at that time.
Boat Captain John Lipscomb returned to the harbor on Friday the 23rd, found the discharge was still flowing and collected another water quality sample. This sample, taken directly at the discharge pipe, hit the limits of our onboard lab system at >24,196 Enterococcus count per 100/ml. That is at least more than 397 times greater than the EPA guideline for acceptable water quality which is 61 Entero per 100/ml in fresh water.
Riverkeeper reported our water quality finding to DEC on September 24th. DEC reported it to the Beacon Water and Sewer Superintendent.
In the absence of any public notification of the spill, Riverkeeper notified the press and the public on the morning of September 28th, advising people to avoid contact with the water in the area of spill. The Mayor of Beacon issued the first official public notification of the spill that evening in the form of a message posted on the city website.
Riverkeeper collected another water quality sample on September 30th. It was also >24,196 Enter count per 100/ml. The Mayor of Beacon and NYS DEC called for the Dutchess County Department of Health to test the discharge water on September 29th. Results confirmed sewage contamination but microbial counts were not released to the public.
Riverkeeper conducted additional periodic sampling (including two rounds of samples processed by a certified lab in Newburg) through 10/12/11. All samples confirmed an ongoing sewage discharge. On 11/17 we returned to collect another sample and found that the sewage flow had stopped. Since then, the site has been monitored for Riverkeeper by two local resident “Watchdogs.” The last site check was in early February 2012 after heavy rain. There was no sewage discharge at that time. So it appears that the problem has been repaired. However, the actual cause of the sewage release has not been disclosed by Beacon officials to either DEC or Riverkeeper. So, Riverkeeper Watchdogs will continue to periodically check this pipe.
When public notification is not required by law it usually does not happen.
Dutchess County has not issued any public notification about the ongoing sewage discharge in Beacon Harbor even though it took place at a heavily used public access point during warm weather and during the boating season.
When the public keep an eye out for problems WE CAN SUCCEED. Without the help of the public, this discharge might not have been detected and repaired. THANK YOU!