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For Release: Wednesday, May 1, 2013

DEC: Operators Must Report Discharges to DEC as First Phase of Sewage Pollution Right to Know Act That Goes into Effect Today

DEC to Work With Operators to Ensure Compliance

The first phase of the Sewage Pollution Right to Know Act, a system for collecting discharge reports of untreated and partially treated sewage from public wastewater systems, goes into effect today, announced the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation. The law, signed by Governor Andrew Cuomo on August 9, 2012, changes the requirements for reporting untreated or partially treated sewage discharges, also known as bypasses, from publicly owned treatment works and imposes new reporting requirements for publicly owned sewer systems and combined sewer overflows.

"The Sewage Pollution Right to Know Act protects New Yorkers by making them aware when discharges to waterways affecting public health occur," said DEC Commissioner Joe Martens. "This notice allows the general public to make informed decisions about fishing, swimming and recreating in affected waterways. Governor Cuomo's support of this law further reinforces the Administration's efforts to provide transparency while protecting residents from potentially coming into contact with polluted waters."

"The new notification procedures will protect the public from exposure to pollution when a sewage discharge makes it unsafe to use public waters," said Senator Mark Grisanti, chair, Senate Committee on Environmental Conservation. "Moreover, the reporting data will help us direct resources efficiently and effectively to improve wastewater infrastructure in the future. I would like to extend my thanks to the Governor's office and the Department and to all the parties that helped make this important law possible."

"The people of the State of New York have the right to know whether our natural resources are suitable for their enjoyment," said Assemblyman Robert Sweeney, chair, Assembly Committee on Environmental Conservation. "As a sponsor of this legislation that successfully became law, it is imperative that critical information pertaining to water quality reaches those using our waterways, not just public officials. I thank my colleagues in government, Governor Cuomo and DEC for moving this forward."

Previously, notification of a discharge by publicly owned treatment works was only provided to DEC and the Department of Health within two hours if the discharge was near a public drinking water in-take, a bathing beach or shellfish beds. All untreated or partially treated sewage discharges from publicly owned treatment works were required to be reported to DEC within 24 hours. Under the new law, notification is required within two hours for all discharges by publicly owned treatment works as well as publicly owned sewer systems. DEC will make the information available to the general public and neighboring municipalities on its website.

DEC is developing regulations for a second part of the law that requires publicly owned treatment works and publicly owned sewer systems to notify the public directly of discharges. DEC plans to release the draft regulations this fall for public comment.

DEC is working with the regulated community and environmental stakeholders to ensure they are aware of the new requirements and that compliance will be achieved. Over the past several months, DEC met with environmental groups and associations representing the wastewater operators to discuss the Sewage Right to Know program. DEC has already sent two mailings to the wastewater operators. This week, DEC will send wastewater operators more information about the law and how to submit a reporting form. DEC will continue to reach out to the regulated community, environmental groups and the public with more detailed information about the regulations, bypass reports and compliance as the regulatory process moves forward.

Reporting Discharges

DEC has developed an electronic reporting form for the public wastewater systems to use to report sewage bypasses, which can be found on DEC's website along with instructions how to fill out the form. Operators with questions on reporting requirements can call DEC at 518-402-8177.

Based on this reported information, DEC will prepare an annual report of discharges. The report will contain the total number of discharges, the volume and duration of such discharges and the remedial responses, if any, to such discharges. Sewage Discharge Reports will be available on DEC's website.

DEC will initially put information on its website about the location of combined sewer overflows (CSOs). A newly developed webpage called "CSO Wet Weather Advisory" will help the public make decisions about boating, swimming and recreating on waterbodies available on DEC's website.

For more information on the new requirements of the Sewage Pollution Right to Know Act, visit DEC's website.

To receive updates on the Sewage Pollution Right to Know Act via e-mail, subscribe to MakingWaves. MakingWaves also provides information about important water-related issues, events and news. To subscribe, go to subscribe to GovDelivery and enter your e-mail address. Fill in and submit the requested information on the "New Subscriber" page. This will take you to the "Quick Subscription" page where you will see all the topics that you can receive e-mail updates on from DEC. Scroll to the "Water" category and check the box next to "MakingWaves."

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