Recent rains overwhelm Capital Region sewers

June 07, 2017 06:46 PM

While the sun has finally made an appearance again, it’s rained hard in the Capital Region over the last few days. That has overwhelmed local sewer systems.

The state Department of Environmental Conservation is reporting that Troy released almost 29 million gallons of untreated sewage into the Hudson River over the past four days. The city of Hudson released about two million gallons in two days. Amsterdam spilled four and a half million gallons into the Mohawk in a day and a half.

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"It's the brown water that we always talk about," explained Albany Water Commissioner Joe Coffey.

He says the recent heavy rain is causing the brown water to overflow into the Hudson River.

"When we have a prolonged rain event and we know we're going to have an overflow, you try to minimize the sanitary use that's going to go down into, through the toilet, through your dishwashing," he explained.

That's because there's greater risk of illness or contamination for people using affected rivers. Blame it on the old sewer systems like Albany’s, which is over 200 years old.

"It's a combined sewer overflow and like most of the older urban Northeast cities, we have a combined sewer system," noted Coffey.

"So you have rainwater snowmelt and sewage all going into the same pipe," pointed out Democratic Assemblyman Angelo Santabarbara.

The old combined sewer system pushed the sewage in the wastewater treatment plant past capacity and anything after that gets dumped into the river. Albany monitors the problem with a computerized system, but it’s also happening elsewhere.

The state sends out alerts about affected areas like the Mohawk River in Amsterdam, which Santabarbara represents.

"In the budget, we put $10 million to be accessed under emergency situations like that and hopefully we can access some of that to address some of these issues," Santabarbara pointed out.

Coffey says storm water detention bases in Albany hold some of the storm water back.

The city is working on a multi-million dollar plan to reduce sewage spilling into the Hudson out of a massive pipe called The Big C.

"It's a quality of life issue for us. How clean are our rivers are. It’s recreation. We ultimately all want to use the river more for fishing, kayaking, canoeing," acknowledged Coffey.


WNYT Staff

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