Empowering Communities, Advocating Solutions



For immediate release:
Thursday, August 9, 2012
For more information contact:
Adrienne Esposito, Executive Director, 516-390-7150, 631-384-1378 (mobile), aesposito@citizenscampaign.org
Brian Smith, Program & Communications Director, 716-472-4078 (mobile), bsmith@citizenscampaign.org


New Law Gives New Yorkers Right to Know When Sewage Pollution is in Our Waters--- CCE Applauds Governor for Critical Public Health Protection

Albany, NY – Citizens Campaign for the Environment (CCE) is applauding Governor Cuomo for signing the Sewage Pollution Right to Know Act (A.10585A Sweeney / S.6268D Grisanti) into law today. The bill was passed by the legislature on the final day of session. This act will finally give the public the right to know when raw or partially treated sewage is discharged into New York waters, allowing the public to avoid unnecessary exposure to dangerous sewage pollution.

Sewage overflows occur throughout NY. They contaminate beaches, bays, rivers, lakes, and streams; and can flood streets and back up into homes or other buildings. Members of the public can often be seen recreating in areas that have recently been contaminated with sewage.

“It’s unconscionable to think that a family trip to a beloved beach or fishing spot would put our families at risk to dangerous pathogens that make us sick. The signing of this monumental public health law will allow families to make informed decisions and avoid unnecessary exposure to harmful sewage pollution,” said Adrienne Esposito, Executive Director for Citizens Campaign for the Environment. “We applaud Assemblyman Sweeney, Senator Grisanti, Senator Skelos, and Governor Cuomo for their leadership in passing this critical bill into law.”

Similar public notification laws already exist in more than a dozen other states, including CT, which passed a notification law earlier this year. New York’s Sewage Pollution Right to Know law will require public notification within four hours of a sewage discharge. Notification will happen via local news outlets and the website of the NY Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC).

In addition, the DEC will produce a statewide Sewage Discharge Report each year that will report annual discharges and remedial responses taken. Increased public awareness of the size and scope of New York’s sewage problems should spur increased investment in solving the problem.
“Sewage will no longer be out of sight and out of mind, but rather it will be in public discussion. Admitting that we have a problem with sewage pollution is the first step in recovery,” concluded Esposito.

The public has demonstrated overwhelming support for passage of this important legislation. 21,500 letters were sent to elected officials and 50,000 signatures were collected in support of the public’s right to know when sewage overflows contaminate New York’s waterways and communities.

Background on Sewage in our Waters

New York is the only state with ocean, estuarine and Great Lakes coastlines. Our beautiful waters are a major contributor to our local economies.

Human exposure to disease-causing pathogens contained in even small amounts of raw sewage can lead to short-term and chronic illnesses, especially for children, the elderly and people with compromised immune systems. Despite the fact that waterborne illnesses are underreported, the number of documented illnesses resulting from swimming is on the rise nationwide. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency estimates that between 1.8 and 3.5 million Americans become ill annually from contact with sewage in recreational waters.

Federal funding for wastewater infrastructure has declined dramatically in recent decades. This lack of funding has contributed to a significant decline in the maintenance and upgrades of New York’s wastewater infrastructure. More than 600 wastewater treatment facilities in New York are operating beyond their life expectancy and many others are using outmoded and inadequate technology that results in the discharge of hundreds of millions of gallons of untreated sewage into waters used by New Yorkers for recreation and, in some cases, drinking water. In addition, outdated combined sewer systems overflow raw sewage and stormwater into local waterways when it rains, adding additional billions of gallons of untreated sewage into our precious waterways each year.


Citizens Campaign for the Environment (CCE) empowers communities and advocates solutions for our shared environment and public health and is supported by over 80,000 members throughout New York State and Connecticut. www.citizenscampaign.org

updated by bsmith  8/9/12