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For Release: Friday, May 16, 2014

DEC Reaches Agreement with Schenectady to Improve Mohawk River Water Quality

The NYS Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) and the city of Schenectady have agreed on measures the city must take to address sewage discharges to the Mohawk River, the agency announced today.

"I'm pleased to announce that Schenectady has agreed to continue its work to repair and improve its wastewater infrastructure to protect the environment. The city signed a consent order requiring the city to undertake a number of steps to investigate and address so called wet-weather discharges to the Mohawk River," DEC Assistant Commissioner Jim Tierney said. "This order will help to improve Mohawk River water quality by requiring a number of steps the city must take to eventually eliminate wet-weather discharges to the Mohawk River at the Alco regulator."

The Alco regulator is located at the Alco Brownfield site between Erie Boulevard and the Mohawk River in the city of Schenectady. The Alco regulator was previously classified as a combined sewer overflow (CSO). Combined sewer overflows are periodically allowed to discharge to surface waterbodies under certain conditions. Under the new agreement, the Alco regulator is classified as a sanitary sewer overflow (SSO) which is prohibited from discharging to the river under the Clean Water Act.

To address the discharges, the city must undertake an investigation to determine the causal connection between the frequency and duration of the wet weather discharges at the Alco regulator, the susceptibility of the collection system to inflow and infiltration within the floodplain, and the associated impacts from high water elevations of the Mohawk River. The city is also required to chlorinate wet-weather discharges from the Alco regulator until the SSO is eliminated.

The order also recognizes that the city will need to obtain a new State Pollution Discharge Elimination System (SPDES) permit and adopt regulatory requirements designed to eliminate wet weather discharges to the Mohawk River. Once the SSOs cease, all of the flow will be treated by the city's wastewater treatment plant which has sufficient capacity to handle the additional flow.

Inflow is surface water that enters a sewer system from a wide variety of sources including yard, roof, footing drains, downspouts and holes in manhole covers. Infiltration is groundwater that enters sewer pipes through cracks, breaks, joint failures and other openings. Excessive inflow and infiltration can overwhelm wastewater treatment systems and both are common in older sewer systems throughout the country.

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