Sewage Pollution Right to Know
The first phase of the Sewage Pollution Right to Know Act, a system for collecting reports of untreated and partially treated sewage discharges from public sewage systems, went into effect May 1, 2013. The law, signed by Governor Andrew Cuomo on August 9, 2012, changed the requirements for reporting untreated or partially treated sewage discharges, also known as bypasses, from publicly owned treatment works (POTWs) and imposed new reporting requirements for publicly owned sewer systems (POSSs) and combined sewer overflows (CSOs).
How Reporting Requirements Have Changed
Previously, notification of a discharge by public owned treatment works was only provided to DEC and the Department of Health within 2 hours if the discharge was near a public drinking water in-take, a bathing beach or shellfish beds. All other untreated and partially treated sewage discharges from publicly owned treatment works were required to be reported to DEC within 24 hours.
Under the new law, POTWs and POSSs are required to notify DEC and Department of Health within two hours of discovery of untreated and partially treated sewage discharges.The information is available to the general public and neighboring municipalities on the Sewage Discharge Reports web page. DEC is working with the regulated community to ensure they are aware of the new requirements and help them comply with the new law.
How Discharges are Reported to DEC
POTWs and POSSs submit the Sewage Discharge Report Form (PDF, 603 KB) to DEC. The discharge reports submitted to DEC are forwarded to the Department of Health.
More information about the discharge report form, form guidance and other resources are on the Sewage Discharge Reporting Toolbox web page.
A Summary of the Discharge Reports
Information received from POTWs and POSSs is summarized and updated daily on the Sewage Discharge Reports web page. The information is available to the general public including adjoining municipalities.
Annually DEC will prepare a report of the discharges. The report will contain the total number of discharges, the volume and duration of discharges and the remedial responses, if any, for discharges.
Wet Weather Combined Sewer Overflows (CSOs)
DEC developed a CSO Google Map showing the location of all CSOs and a "CSO Wet Weather Advisory" web page to help the public make decisions about boating, swimming, and recreating on waterbodies. DEC recommends avoiding contact or recreation within waterbodies with a CSO outfall during or following a rainfall or snowmelt event.
DEC has reviewed the capabilities of CSO communities and has determined that the technology to reliably detect and measure discharges from the majority of CSOs does not currently exist. DEC anticipates that improvements in CSO detection and monitoring may be pursued in department approved plans or permits.
Do you want to learn how a CSO works?
Learn about how CSOs work, visit the City of Bremeton (WA) website to see animated videos of how a combined sewer system functions during dry and wet weather events. The link is located under the "Links Leaving DEC Website" on the right hand side.
Second Phase of Sewage Right to Know Act
DEC is developing regulations for the second part of the law that requires publicly owned treatment works and publicly owned sewer systems to directly notify the public of discharges. DEC plans to release the draft regulations this fall for public comment.
To help municipalities implement the law, DEC is seeking a permanent solution that can be universally accessed by elected officials, adjoining municipalities, and the public to receive notification of discharges of untreated and partially treated sewage within 4 hours of discovery.