Authorities Failing To Notify Public Of Sewage Plant Spills, Despite New Law

Photo by PayPaul

When it comes to sewage spilling into our waterways, people might not really want to know – but they should. The New York Daily News is reporting that while sewage plant operators are required to report spills to health authorities right away, many wait for long spells and often give incomplete reports.

When a sewage spill happens, by law, a sewage plant is required to notify the Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) within two hours and the public at large within four hours. Despite this, the Daily News has learned that many spills haven’t been properly reported in a timely fashion:

The agency recently started posting untreated sewage spills on its website to warn the public. The latest report, posted Friday, lists spills — including a 1,000-gallon spill that flowed into Flushing Bay near College Point, Queens — from as far back as May 8.
But most of the entries failed to report the volume of the spills.
A new law passed May 1 requires municipal sewage plant operators to report spills to health officials within two hours and the public within four. But many plant reports are filed late and incomplete, showing “unknown” spill volumes, the Associated Press reported Sunday.
For instance, a spill into Paerdegat Basin in Flatlands, Brooklyn, on June 28, and another into the Harlem River in the Bronx on July 15, failed to report the volume of the spills.
The DEC estimates $36 billion is needed over the next 20 years to repair and upgrade sewer systems at 643 municipal treatment plants in the state.

For those interested, the only two spills reported in Kings County were both at the Red Hook facility in early June – and none at the local Coney Island Wastewater Treatment Plant on Knapp Street. The DEC (and the Daily News, for that matter) does not make it easy to find the reports on their website, but after some prodding they turned up here, as a downloadable spreadsheet.

Recently, New York State received $340 million from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to upgrade and fix the state’s sewage plants, like our own Knapp Street poop factory. The sum given by the EPA is a drop in the bucket compared to the $36 billion needed.

The failure of sewage plant operators to report on spills in a timely and full fashion also adds to the overall growing paranoia over the cleanliness of the beaches and waterways in the local area. Earlier in the month, we reported on a Natural Resources Defense Council study that measured cleanliness of the ocean water at Brighton Beach and Coney Island. The study pointed to the sewage overflow problem which amounts to 30 billion gallons annually in the city.

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