Albany, NY (Matt Wade/CC)
The state’s Department of Environmental Conservation is investigating whether Albany and Troy violated state law by not reporting a massive sewage discharge into the Hudson River last month.
A spokeswoman for the DEC said Monday the agency “reserves the right to pursue actions against municipalities for failure to comply with incident reporting requirements. As a result of recent wet weather with limited discharge reporting, DEC will continue to investigate the potential for unreported combined sewer overflows” in an email.
While the DEC is still investigating the discharge of sewage, if it seeks to collect the fine, the agency would have to file an administrative complaint before an Administrative Law Judge or go to court. But most cases, according to the DEC, are settled through a Consent Order.
Albany and Troy could see a fine of up to $37,500 a day, per violation, for failing to report it on time.
The city of Albany reported 10 spills resulting in four million gallons of untreated sewage flowing into the Hudson River, according to a notice filed with the DEC on July 7, more than a week late. Roughly half of the amount was attributed to overflows that began on June 23 and extended onto June 24 and continued between June 26 and June 27 from a series of storms in the area. Roughly 10,000 gallons-per-minute of sewage began to spill in a two-hour period on June 30. The following day, between 10:15 p.m. and 11:45 p.m., another 10,000 gallons-per-minute were reported.
Under the state’s Sewage Right to Know Law, sewage system operators are mandated to report sewage discharges to the DEC within two hours of discovery and within four hours to the public. The law, according to the DEC’s website, helps people avoid contact with bodies of water that have been infected and may contain bacteria that can make people ill.
The city of Troy, which is across the Hudson River and roughly 10 miles north of Albany, has yet to report on when and how much sewage was discharged into the river. A city spokesman did not immediately return a request for comment. A representative told the Albany Times Union that the failure in adequate reporting was due to workers being off for July 4.
Joe Coffey, the Albany Water Department commissioner, disputed that the sewage was a “spill” or “leak.” Instead he characterized it as a “technical violation.” The “only issue,” Coffey said, is that the city didn’t report the overflow in real time to the DEC because the employee charged with doing so was on vacation.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency had no immediate comment on the matter.