Discharge Source and Duration
A member of the public discovered the discharge on August 11th, 2011. It was caused when a tree fell on an exposed section of a sewer main crossing Killbrook Creek. It is not known when the tree fell and the discharge started. Repairs on the broken main started shortly after the spill was discovered. Repairs were completed and the flow stopped late the next day, August 12th.
Westchester County estimated that 1.5 million gallons of sewage was released daily while the release was flowing.
Response to Discharge
Westchester County issued a public notification of the release to the press and the public on the day that the report was received. They closed the public beach in Croton Point Park and advised the closing of all other beaches in Westchester from Tarrytown to Croton for 8/11 through 8/13.
Riverkeeper sampled at the discharge point and in the surrounding area on 8/12/11 and again on 8/15/11. It rained on 8/14/11. We found worse water quality in the area around the discharge on 8/15/11 following the rain than the water quality on 8/12/11 when the sewage release was stilling flowing.
Summary: Notifying the public of only accidental releases, not wet weather releases or chronic contamination, misleads people and puts the public health at risk. If you notify about some sewage releases, you need to notify about all sewage releases.
Westchester County did a good job notifying the public of the dangers of coming into contact with sewage contaminated water from the accidental release. However, the public is not getting notified when water quality is unacceptable due to high level of sewage after rain.
Following the spill in Ossining, Westchester County lifted their advisory to stay out of the Hudson on Saturday evening, 8/13, and the beaches in Croton and Sleepy Hollow reopened. On Monday, 8/15, the public was back in the water feeling relieved that the advisory had been lifted. What they didn’t know was that the water quality on Monday was worse than it was during the advisory period. The rain on 8/14 had triggered sewage overflows along the shoreline that had a larger impact on water quality than the accidental release had.
Warning the public about sewage contamination only in the case of accidental releases does not sufficiently protect public health.
Riverkeeper Water Quality Sampling Results