Mayor Releases Memo to Common Council Regarding Combined Sewer Overflow
The City of Poughkeepsie
To: Common Council Chairwoman Finney
From: Mayor Rolison
Date: July 19, 2018
Re: Combined Sewer Overflow (“CSO”)
CC: Common Council; City Administrator; City Engineer
Recently the media has been reporting on incidents of CSO discharge into the Hudson River. I wanted to provide you with some facts and historical background in case you get questions from your constituents. The discharge as reported by the media is nothing new. It is a common occurrence and fully permitted by any and all regulatory agencies including the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation. What has changed is the alerting process now required by DEC. Under the Sewage Pollution Right to Know, the City is required to report to the NY Alert System each time a discharge occurs within the city’s system. This reporting is part of an updated program that the NYDEC recently rolled out to the public.
The City of Poughkeepsie, like many older cities has a partially combined sewer collection system which means that in parts of the city, storm water runoff, domestic sewage and industrial wastewater are collected in the same pipe and transmitted to the wastewater treatment plant. There is also a Combined Sewer Overflow (“CSO”) outfall which permits a controlled discharge of excess capacity. These CSO outfalls are completely permissible and permitted by New York State DEC. In fact, there are over 800 CSO outfalls in New York State. The need for the outfalls generally occurs during weather events when the combined sewer system becomes inundated with storm water runoff and the city’s Water Pollution Control Plant cannot handle the excess capacity. The excess capacity will flow through the outfall and be discharged into the Hudson River. The discharge is diluted to safe levels upon entering the Hudson River. This process has occurred since the creation of the combined sewer system except for the fact that the discharge is now controlled and permitted by DEC.
In 2008, the City developed a long term plan to separate the combined sewer system in those areas of the city where they still exist. This plan was approved by New York State DEC and calls for a phased approach to control CSO. The plan identifies specific improvements to be made to the system through the year 2028. Over the years, the city has expended millions of dollars to address the combined sewer and is currently developing design plans for construction of approximately $10 million in improvements. Once completed these improvements will reduce the overflow events, but will not completely eliminate them. Current estimates of a complete separation of the combined sewer system are approximately $50 million. This year, the city has allocated approximately $2.7 million toward combined sewer improvements.
It is important to note that these events have no impact on the quality of the drinking water produced by the Joint Water Plant. These events are not new and the water plant effectively treats river water through a complex filtration process eliminating any health hazards associated with drinking river water. I have spoken with Water Plant Administrator Randy Alstadt and he has indicated the same.
In closing, I ask that you share this important information with your constituents. It is important that we alleviate any concerns that are caused by the new alerting system and also that we promote the positive message that the City is actively working to resolve a 100 year old infrastructure issue with a $50 million price tag.
Memo: Combined Sewer Overflow (“CSO”) – July 19, 2018 (.pdf)