Department of Environmental Conservation

D E C banner

Update on Sewage Pollution Right to Know Law

Summer 2014 Issue

In the summer, New Yorkers are on and in water! Wastewater treatment plant operators have always had a key role in keeping our waters clean. Wastewater treatment has greatly improved many lakes and waterways so that people can enjoy places they probably would not have visited 40 years ago.

But there is still much work to do and still places and situations where contact with the water is not advised. Beginning in 2013 with the Sewage Pollution Right to Know (SPRTK) law, operators now have the additional role of informing the public of times and locations in which inadequately treated sewage is discharged into our waters. This notification will help the public avoid waters that may contain bacteria or pathogens that can cause illness.

The SPRTK law requires that discharges of untreated and partially treated sewage be reported by publicly owned treatment works (POTWs) and publicly owned sewer systems (POSSs) within two hours of discovery to the NYS Department of Environmental Conservation and within four hours of discovery to the public and adjoining municipalities.

Implementing the SPRTK law has involved an ongoing stakeholder process, and NYSDEC wants to make it as simple and effective as possible. It is important that the public be made aware of possible hazards while not adding an unnecessary burden to wastewater treatment operators. Since last spring, NYSDEC has made substantial progress on the reporting process and systems. It also provided additional information to the public so that New Yorkers can better understand wastewater treatment and the SPRTK law. Here is an update on activities:

  • NYSDEC has been working with the State Office of Emergency Management and the Office of Information Technology Services on the use of the NY-ALERT system to report untreated discharges. The warning system is expected to be online later this year.
  • NYSDEC has conducted training sessions throughout the state demonstrating how to complete and submit the Sewage Discharge Report Form to report discharges.
  • NYSDEC has improved its webpages for POTWs and POSSs so that operators can readily find needed information. Improved and expanded information has been added to NYSDEC webpages for the public, including a map showing the locations of combined sewer overflows.
  • NYSDEC has been drafting regulations to implement the SPRTK law. The department will file a Notice of Proposed Rule Making in the near future. The public will then have an opportunity to comment.

People will be out swimming, boating and fishing this summer because water quality professionals, like wastewater treatment operators, keep the water clean for them and alert them about areas to avoid. Thanks to operators throughout New York State, everyone will be able to use and enjoy its waters with increased confidence.

  • Important Links
  • Links Leaving DEC's Website
  • Contact for this Page
  • Department of Environmental Conservation
    Division of Water, 4th Floor
    625 Broadway
    Albany, NY 12233-3500
  • This Page Covers
  • Page applies to all NYS regions