New sewer law surfaces

JOHNSTOWN – The onus will now be more on the municipalities where sewage overflows occur to report them directly to the state – instead of just the sewer plant – local officials said recently.

Gloversville-Johnstown Wastewater Treatment Facility engineer Tyler Masick told the Joint Sewer Board the state has a new Sewage Pollution Right to Know Act, which hasn’t gone into effect yet.

Masick said the act requires two-hour notification and written reports to the state Department of Environmental Conservation.

It is a new system for collecting discharge reports of untreated and partially-treated sewage – also known as bypasses – from public wastewater systems.

Masick said the new DEC policy requires the “owners” of the sewer systems – the municipalities where the overflows occur – report to DEC online within two hours. The owners locally are the cities of Gloversville and Johnstown, town of Johnstown and Fulton County.

Such reporting to the state was done previously only by the sewage treatment plant.

“There’s not much we have to do [now] on that,” Masick said.

He said the facility is still learning more about the new law. The sewer plant will be responsible for reporting overflows along its main trunk sewer line running from Gloversville to Johnstown, Masick said.

According to the DEC website, the Sewage Pollution Right to Know Act was signed into law in August by Gov. Andrew Cuomo. The first phase of the act was supposed to go into effect May 1, but hasn’t yet.

Facility consultant George Bevington said it may possibly go into effect Oct. 1.

“There’s a lot of ambiguity because they haven’t promulgated the final regulations,” he said.

Previously, notification of a sewer discharge by public-owned treatment works was only provided to DEC and the state Department of Health within two hours if the discharge was near a public drinking water in-take, a bathing beach or shellfish beds. Sewage discharges were reported by the sewer plant to DEC within 24 hours.

Under the new law, notification is required within two hours for all discharges by the municipalities and the sewer plant, the website said.

DEC is developing regulations for a second part of the law requiring sewer system owners to notify the public directly of discharges, the site says.

DEC plans to release those draft regulations this fall for public comment.

Bevington said that “obviously” there is an outcry for more public notice on sewer overflows.

He said the sewer plant’s State Pollution Discharge Elimination System, or SPDES permit, was in possible jeopardy through past reporting regulations. But he said the new law places more emphasis on owners of the systems, such as the municipalities.

“It kind of eliminates the middle man,” Bevington said.

Michael Anich covers Johnstown and Fulton County news. He can be reached at