Heavy rainfall is cited as the reason an unknown amount of partially treated sewage flowed from Cobleskill’s sewer system into the Cobleskill Creek June 13 and 14.
It was a bad week for local surface water. The sewer system serving Palatine Bridge and Fort Plain dumped an estimated 45,000 gallons of untreated, raw sewage into the Mohawk River June 11 and an unknown amount of sewage into the river in the wake of the heavy rainfall on June 13.
Raw sewage flushing into local waterways people dip their toes into are now under the spotlight thanks to the Sewage Pollution Right to Know Act.
Publicly owned sewer system operators are now required to report sewage discharges within two hours and the state Department of Environmental Conservation is now posting that data on its website at www.dec.ny.gov/chemical/90321.html.
The system will bring more information to the public and environmental groups hope that will lead to more action and investment.
“I think it’s tremendously important because the general public, for the most part, doesn’t realize that almost on a daily basis in New York state we have raw sewage flowing into our rivers and our creeks,” said Katherine Nadeau, water and natural resources program director at Environmental Advocates of New York.
Nadeau said there are public health and environmental issues at stake and the problem of sewage in waterways is expected to worsen as systems continue to age and extreme weather events continue to occur.
Putting sewage overflows under a spotlight can help prevent people from getting sick and may spark more motivation to invest money in aging sewer and stormwater systems, Nadeau said.
“I think understanding the problem is the first step toward getting the political will to fix the problem. This is going to be a difficult problem to fix, but literally our house is on the line here. As all of these systems age, the problems are only going to get bigger,” Nadeau said.
According to the DEC, roughly 27 billion gallons of raw, untreated sewage flows into New York Harbor each year. It’s unclear how much sewage in total is dumped into waters statewide.
The new Web page provides a link to a spreadsheet, updated regularly, which provides the name of the system, where it flows, how long the discharge lasted, an estimate of how much sewage flowed, the state of treatment of that sewage, a reason for the discharge and any corrective actions taken.
An additional element of this law will lead to these system operators notifying the public directly, and draft regulations for that process are expected to go up for public comment in the fall.