Senate Gives Final Passage to Sewage Spill Notification Bill

June 21, 2012

The New York State Senate today gave final legislative passage to a bill that increases the amount of information available to the public when discharges of untreated or partially treated sewage to the state’s waterways could affect public health. The Sewage Pollution Right to Know Act (S6268D), sponsored by Senator Mark Grisanti (R, North Buffalo), would require prompt notification of such sewage discharges so that the public has the information they need to make decisions about water based recreation like swimming, boating, and fishing.

“When New York’s children and families head outside to enjoy the many recreational opportunities our state’s waterbodies provide, we need to make sure their health is protected,” Senator Grisanti, Chairman of the Environmental Conservation Committee, said. “This bill expands reporting requirements so that when sewage discharges that could get people sick occur, people would have the information to make educated decisions about their possible exposure.”

Discharges of untreated or partially treated sewage to the state’s waterways include contaminants and pollutants, pathogens, bacteria and toxins can raise public health, safety and environmental concerns. Current notification procedures have proven inadequate in disseminating information when discharges that could affect public health occur. Prompt notification of these discharge events would help the public have the information needed to limit recreational uses and activities so that people can be protected from potential exposure to contamination.

Publicly Owned Treatment Works (POTWs) or the operator of a publicly owned sewer system would be required to comply with expanded reporting requirements when a discharge occurs. When public health could be impacted, the bill includes a public notification requirement that would be specified upon development of regulations by the state Department of Environmental Conservation. 

The bill has passed the Assembly and will be sent to the Governor.