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Source: The Journal News

N.Y. Legislature passes sewage right-to-know bill, sends unclaimed bottle deposits into environmental fund


Posted: June 25, 2012
Originally Published: June 23, 2012

ALBANY -- A share of unclaimed bottle deposits would be swept into the state’s Environmental Protection Fund under a bill awaiting Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s signature.

If signed by Cuomo, a portion of the nickel deposits on certain bottles and cans that go unclaimed would be earmarked for the environmental fund, which finances grants for conservation and recycling projects.

A total of $10 million would be deposited in the Environmental Protection Fund in the fiscal year beginning April 1, ramping up to $56 million in 2018-19 and every year after.

The Friends of New York’s Environment, a coalition of state-based environmental groups, praised the bill, which would help replenish the fund. It currently stands at $134 million, down from a high of $250 million in 2008-09. “These initiatives not only conserve New York’s land, air and water, but also create badly needed jobs and energize our economy,” the group said in a statement.

The state Senate approved the bill late Thursday, just hours before the legislative session drew to a close. The Assembly had passed it Wednesday.

From August 2009 through November 2011, the state’s share of unclaimed deposits was $224.6 million, according to the Department of Environmental Conservation. The money is deposited in the state’s general fund and used to pay the state’s bills. It remained unclear Friday if Cuomo intended to sign the legislation.

“We’re reviewing the bill,” spokesman Rich Azzopardi said.

Also on Thursday, both the Senate and Assembly approved the Sewage Pollution Right to Know Act.

Under the bill, the operators of public wastewater treatment plants or sewer systems would be obligated to notify the public and a top municipal official within four hours if untreated sewage is discharged into any bodies of water. The same would apply if partially treated waste is discharged, or if any combined sewer systems overflow.

The operators would have to notify the state DEC and local health department within two hours. Currently, the notifications aren’t required.

“When it comes to harmful sewage pollution, ignorance is not bliss, it is dangerous,” said Adrienne Esposito, executive director of Citizens Campaign for the Environment.

A system for reporting the sewage discharges to the public would be developed by the DEC. The volume, date, duration, location and reason for the discharge would have to be reported.

“Clean water is essential to our health,” Assemblywoman Donna Lupardo, D-Endwell, Broome County, said in a statement. “The public deserves to know when our waterways have been contaminated.”

Azzopardi, the Cuomo spokesman, said the bill is under review.

Cuomo has 10 days to sign or veto legislation from the time it is sent to his desk. Neither bill had been formally delivered to the governor’s office as of Friday evening.