3.8 Billion+ Gallons of Sewage Discharges Reported in NY Waterways Since 2013

For Immediate Release: December 7, 2017

3.8 Billion+ Gallons of Sewage Discharges Reported in NY Waterways Since 2013

Advocates Call for Increased, Sustained Annual Funding

Albany, NY — Today, Environmental Advocates of New York released an update to its 2016 report Tapped Out: New York’s Clean Water in Peril. The new analysis of data published by the Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) per the Sewage Pollution Right to Know Act of 2012 (the Act) shows that from May 2013 to July 2017, a total of 10,687 overflows were reported, translating into over 3.8 billion gallons of sewage being discharged into waterways.

While the increase in reporting of overflows is evidence that the Act is working, significant underreporting of overflow events continues to exist. The data indicates more work is needed to help municipalities fully comply with the Act and more funding is needed for municipalities to address aging infrastructure. For example:

  • 32 percent of all reported overflows did not include the spill volume.
  • Since 2013, Chemung County has reported only 1 sewage overflow.
  • Western NY continues to have the highest rate of reported overflows (besides NYC), which highlights their success at reporting.

The addendum can be found online.

Liz Moran, water and natural resources director at Environmental Advocates of New York said, “Every time there are heavy rains, New York’s most precious resource, its waterways, get hit with sewage overflows. Our new analysis shows that New Yorker’s are starting to get a clearer picture of the state of their water thanks to much improved sewage overflow reporting. Unfortunately, that picture shows billions of gallons of raw sewage plague our waterways. Until we see a sustained, annual investment of at least $800 million to fix our pipes, rampant sewage overflows that threaten public health and quality of life will only continue.”

Elizabeth Bourguet, coauthor and clean water fellow at Environmental Advocates of New York said, “The intent of the Sewage Pollution Right to Know Law is to ensure the public knows what is going into their water – the cost of not knowing could greatly impact their health. More than one-third of the reports listed a discharged volume of zero gallons, which means the state and members of the public are in the dark about the extent of the pollution in their water during overflow events. The DEC must ensure that these communities submit reports that contain the actual volume of the discharge, as not doing so might constitute a violation of law.”

The Sewage Action Plan for 2018

  • Provide additional staff funding for DEC. Municipalities and wastewater operators need a properly funded DEC so they have the support necessary to comply with sewage reporting and can address the root of the problem.
  • Increase funding for water infrastructure grants. The SFY2018-19 Budget should include at least $800 million annually for the WIIA program. Additional funding will enable greater reach to communities with high water infrastructure needs.
  • Provide financial support for communities to monitor sewage discharges. In addition to the funding needed to repair old infrastructure, DEC must ensure communities have the resources they need to accurately monitor, and report the volume, of sewage discharges.