In Depth: Cleaning up sewage discharge from the Hudson River

October 27, 2016 06:24 PM

ALBANY -- Five decades ago, with the creation of the Environmental Protection Agency, treatment facilities were built to address water pollution.  

"One of the things that had never been addressed at that point were the Combined Sewer Outflows, which so many of our communities in the northeast, particularly along the Hudson River and the pool communities, we all have them," Albany County Water Commissioner, Joe Coffey explained.

Advertisement – Content Continues Below

The system works well in dry weather but when it rains, wastewater flows too fast and directly out of a Combined Sewer Outflow or CSO. 

There are nearly 100 discharge points that bring treated wastewater into the Hudson River.

This one is called the 'Big C.' 

It's got cities and Albany, Rensselaer, Colonie, Troy, Cohoes and Village of Green Island all working together in the Long Term Control Plan (LTCP), to make sure this combined sewer system handles severe wet weather events.

The $45 million dollar facility would house excess wastewater by 2022.

Where it'll be built is still up for debate.

But the 'Big C' is just one of 50 projects that all six communities have agreed to pay for.

WEB EXTRA: How the combined sewer system works

Albany, bears the brunt spending roughly $82 million while the Village of Green Island will contribute about $740,000.

The LTCP breakdown takes into account population and the number of CSO's each community has.

Total Community Investment: $136.53 million

Albany – 58.68 percent

Troy – 34.76 percent

Cohoes – 2.74 percent

Rensselaer – 2.13 percent

Watervliet – 1.16 percent

Green Island – 0.53 percent

"Whatever is not funded by grants, we have to borrow. So we look at what our debt is likely to be at that point, what our revenue and other expenses we have and we'll forecast what we need to do for rates, at that point," Coffey said.

Coffey predicts, if necessary, Albany residents will see their water rates increase, at most, by 2.5 percent over the next 4 years.

The Public Utilities Committee in Troy are also discussing a 17 percent increase but that hasn't been included in the proposed budget.  

"The Hudson River belongs to all of us, upstream, downstream, it just makes sense to work together on this CSO issue since we'll be discharging into the same pool," Coffey added.

In the meantime, the health of the Hudson continues to be monitored and tested for harmful bacteria, three times a week.

"There are a lot of people trying to make it better that's all you can hope for to make it better," Brian Derry said.

You can learn more about the Long Term Control Plan projects by clicking, here.

You can also sign up for sewage discharge alerts from the DEC and for CSO notifications.

In Depth: Why sewage flows into our area rivers and what’s being done about it


Karen Tararache

Copyright 2016 - WNYT-TV, LLC A Hubbard Broadcasting Company