A new law should inform you when sewage contaminates our waterways, so you can avoid recreation that may put your health at risk. But you still won’t know about most sewage discharges if NY implements the law as it intends.
There are 937 combined sewage overflow (CSO) outfalls across NY State that together dump more than 33 billion gallons of raw sewage and stormwater runoff in our waters each year. Discharges from these antiquated combined sewer systems account for the majority of sewage that is released into the waters where we swim, boat and fish.
Despite this fact, the Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) plans to exclude CSO discharges from its sewage discharge reporting. Instead the DEC has posted a standing advisory, putting the burden on the public to figure out if there are CSO outfalls near the location where they plan to enter the water, and to determine whether or not a CSO may have discharged due to rain.
This is not the simple and comprehensive water quality notification called for in the Sewage Pollution Right to Know law.
While DEC is still drafting the regulations for this law, please contact Governor Cuomo and urge him to ensure that we get the consistent and comprehensive water quality warnings we expect.
This May, that law went into effect and the Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) started "Phase 1" implementation of the law with discharge reports posted online. The DEC's current and planned implementation does not include Combined Sewer Overflows (CSOs) which account for the vast majority of sewage entering our waterways each year. These overflows take place in select communities across the state and when they happen they release large pulses of raw sewage mixed with stormwater runoff from our streets, dumping 33 billion gallons of pollution into our waterways each year.
It is misleading to notify the public about far smaller releases, like the 10 million gallons in NYC this July, while major sewage releases are happening in the same waterways without notification, such as the 540 million gallons of combined sewage and stormwater released into NYC waterways on average every week.
Please tell DEC that the public expects and deserves comprehensive notification of sewage discharges that are timely and easily understood. We should not be expected to know what type of sewage infrastructure exists in every community we swim, boat or fish in, or to search online for CSO outfall locations and recent rainfall measurements at those locations. We want simple water quality advisories consistent with the ozone and smog alerts we already rely on.