Following a massive, unparalleled sewage spill into the Mohawk River in 2013, the upstate city of Amsterdam will soon be required to upgrade its aging sewer lines.
According to a May 5 Oneonta Daily Star article, the sewage spill, caused by heavy rains that overwhelmed the city’s pump stations, dumped some 24 million gallons of untreated waste into the river throughout eight consecutive days in December 2013.
The spill went unreported by the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) that year due to a “clerical error.”
Under a new agreement with the DEC, Amsterdam has agreed to pay a $13,000 fine and upgrade its sewers by 2017 in order to prevent another sewage spill from taking place. The city will be required to track the amount of sewage that leaks into the river when it rains.
“A spill of 24 million gallons of sewage into a drinking-water source is an obscene amount,” Adrienne Esposito, executive director for Citizens Campaign for the Environment, told the Daily Star. “This is a prime example of why a reporting law like this was needed.”
According to the Albany Times Union, the city of Amsterdam will be required to file an inventory detailing its current sewer infrastructure, much of which is buried 12 to 24 inches below ground, along with a capital spending plan for the sewer upgrade.
At least two towns in the Albany area rely on the Mohawk River for their drinking water. Contact with even small amounts of the pathogens found in raw sewage can cause short-term and chronic illness, particularly for children, the elderly and individuals with weakened immune systems. The federal Environmental Protection Agency estimates between 1.8 million and 3.5 million Americans become ill each year due to contact with sewage.
The DEC now uses an NY Alert email system to inform the public and local municipalities of sewage spills as soon as they take place.