Sewage Discharges

The Sewage Pollution Right to Know Law, which was passed in 2012 in New York State, gives the public the right to know when untreated or partially treated sewage is discharged from a public sewer system into New York waters, allowing the public to avoid unnecessary exposure to dangerous sewage pollution.

Untreated and partially treated sewage discharges from public sewer systems may happen during a heavy rainstorm or significant snowmelt when storm water runoff enters the sewer system to a point where it overwhelms the capacity of the system and spills into the environment. Other reasons for a discharge include sewer system blockages, structural, mechanical or electrical failures, collapsed or broken sewer pipes, and vandalism. The older a sewer system is, the more likely it is to experience sewage discharges.

New York State requires that a municipality make public notification within four hours of a sewage discharge. Notification happens 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.

People interested in receiving these notifications can sign up with NY-Alert. It is free and you can enroll here: https://alert.ny.gov/enroll. You can choose how to receive the notifications, such as phone, email, text, or fax. You can also choose to receive other alerts related to weather, road closures, public health issues, missing children and other emergencies.

If your home is served by a public sewer system, you can help reduce the likelihood of a sewage overflow, and therefore protect water quality, in the following ways:

1. Conserve water.

Reducing the amount of water used in your home also reduces the volume of water in the public sewer system, thereby decreasing the potential for sewage overflows during storm events. The following steps will help – shut off faucets when not in use, repair leaking faucets or pipes, take shorter showers, install low flow faucets, showerheads and flush toilets, replace older dishwashers and washing machines with newer, water conserving models, and use rainwater to water your gardens by installing rain barrels.

2. Don’t Dump Fats, Oil and Grease Down Drains.

Grease, oils or fatty substances dumped down residential or restaurant kitchen sinks can build-up in sewer pipes. These build-ups can cause overflows or back-ups of sewage into homes. Instead of dumping them down the sink, allow fats, oils and grease to cool and dispose of them in the trash


Congealed fats, oils and grease in a sewer pipe. Image: Town of Tyngsborough, MA

3. What Not to Flush

Diapers, moist wipes, and personal hygiene products that are commonly flushed down the toilet can damage or clog sewer systems and wastewater treatment equipment causing a sewage overflow. Do not flush any of these items, even when they are labeled as flushable. Throw them in the trash.

For more information on the City of Auburn’s “Wipes Clog Pipes” public education campaign, please click here.

Seth Jensen’s presentation “Combined Sewer Overflow Presentation” from the December 2018 WQMA meeting.

Household Hazardous Waste Collection Day to be held

On October 20, 2018, Cayuga County will once again be hosting a Household Hazardous Waste Day giving residents of the City of Auburn and County of Cayuga the opportunity to safely discard hazardous household chemicals.  The event is FREE, but residents interested in attending however MUST register by October 19th at: https://pub.cce.cornell.edu/event_registration/main/events_landing.cfm?event=HHW2018_205.

Hazardous materials contain ingredients that when improperly disposed of can pose significant health, safety and environmental risks.  Pouring hazardous materials in the drain, flushing them down the toilet or throwing them in the trash are not proper measures of disposal.  Many hazardous materials can go through wastewater treatment facilities untouched because they don’t breakdown in the process and will eventually be released into rivers, lakes and streams. Dumping several products down the drain at the same time can also cause chemical reactions that release toxic gases.  By throwing hazardous waste in a garbage can, we create a health risk to anyone who may unknowingly come into contact with it, such as a sanitation worker.

 These items aren’t your regular trash. Protect yourself, your family and your environment by getting rid of them the right way.

 Acceptable Household Hazardous Wastes To Bring to this Event Include: 

  • Products containing chemicals
  • Oil based paints, oil based stains
  • Turpentine, paint thinners, brush cleaners
  • Pesticides (weed killers, insect sprays, fungicides)
  • Mercury thermometers, barometers and liquid mercury (quick silver)
  • Fluorescent tubes and bulbs (contains mercury)
  • Liquid driveway sealer
  • Household cleaners
  • Gasoline, gas/oil, oil/water, gas/water mixtures
  • Antifreeze
  • Mothballs
  • Pool chemicals
  • Photograph developing chemicals
  • Button cell batteries (from hearing aids, cameras, etc.)
  • Propane tanks
  • Smoke detectors

Look for warnings on labels such as DANGER, CAUTION, TOXIC, FLAMMABLE, CORROSIVE or REACTIVE.

PLEASE NOTE:

  • Alkaline AA, AAA, C, D or 9-volt batteries are not accepted at this event.  They areNOT toxic and can go in the trash.
  • We can NOT accept rechargeable batteries.  Please bring them to Lowes or Home Depot to recycle for free.
  • Latex paint is NOT accepted at this event.  For latex paint disposal, check out: http://www.cayugacounty.us/portals/0/planning/documents/paint.pdf

If you have any questions about a specific item being accepted, contact Cornell Cooperative Extension of Cayuga County at (315) 255-1183.

This event is sponsored by the Cayuga County Legislature, Cayuga County Department of Planning and Economic Development and the Cayuga County Soil and Water Conservation District. Communication and registration is provided by Cornell Cooperative Extension of Cayuga County. Major funding is provided by the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation and the Cayuga County Legislature. 

 

Dispose of leaves properly to protect water quality

Living in the Finger Lakes in the summer not only provides ample opportunity for recreating on its waterbodies, it also offers crisp autumn days with a colorful backdrop to bask in. As the leaves on our trees transform from green to the hues of the season and descend to the ground, they don’t just provide vibrant color, they are the source of nutrients that unfortunately can have a detrimental effect on our local waterbodies and water quality.

Phosphorus, an essential nutrient for plant growth, is released as a leaf begins to decompose. When left littering the ground or swept into the street, leaf litter can be transported by rain or melting snow into a storm drain and then out into the nearest lake, river or stream. Similarly, leaves discarded into gullies or roadside ditches eventually make their way to our waterbodies.

An excess amount of phosphorus in a fresh body of water can stimulate algae growth. Excessive algae growth blocks sunlight and prevents other plants from growing. When algae dies and decays, it takes essential oxygen away from fish. Phosphorus also contributes to the formation of Harmful Algal Blooms (HABs), that can produce dangerous toxins.

According to a study in Madison, Wisconsin by the United States Geological Survey, (https://www.usgs.gov/news/removal-fallen-leaves-can-improve-urban-water-quality) the timely removal of leaf litter reduced harmful phosphorus concentrations in storm water by over 80%. By properly handling leaf litter, we can all have a positive impact on water quality.

By making a conscientious effort to keep leaves out of streets and gutters, gullies and roadside ditches, the amount of phosphorus entering surface water can be reduced. Rake and bag fallen leaves in your yard. Many towns and villages offer curbside collection of properly compiled yard waste. Consider composting. It’s a great way to condition and enhance your soil and a less-expensive, more eco-friendly alternative to commercial fertilizers. Leaves also can serve as a mulch for flower beds, shrubs and trees. Simply use the mulching setting on your mower and bag as you go.

Owasco Lake Watershed Management Plan Public Participation Meeting Held

A public participation/outreach meeting was held on August 13th for the “Owasco Lake Watershed Management Plan—Incorporation of the EPA Nine Key Elements” project.  This public meeting was held to provide an update on the process to incorporate the EPA Nine Key Elements into the Owasco Lake Watershed Management and Waterfront Revitalization Plan, and to obtain public input on Watershed conditions and issues.  To view the presentations from that meeting or to view our public participation plan, please visit our website at http://www.cayugacounty.us/Departments/Water-Quality-Management-Agency/Information-on-County-Waterbodies/Owasco-Lake/Management-Plan.

Owasco Flats Wetland Restoration and Riparian Buffer Initiative Project

Wetlands are an important part of our natural environment.  They are transition areas between upland and aquatic habitats.  They provide critical flood and stormwater control by absorbing, storing and slowing down rain and snowmelt.  They absorb nutrients, pollutants, and filter sediment out of the stormwater.

Cayuga County has received two grants from the New York State Environmental Facilities Corporation’s Green Innovation Grant Program for the Owasco Flats Wetland Restoration and Riparian Buffers Initiative Project.   This project will be located on City of Auburn owned land off of Route 38 in the Town of Moravia.  The Owasco Inlet will be reconnected with its floodplain with water control structures so that during high flow events water will flow into created and existing wetlands to filter out nutrients and sediment.  The created wetlands will be similar to natural vernal pools that have standing water about a week or two after storm events.  Not having permanent standing water will encourage amphibian reproduction, while limiting predatory fish species, nesting waterfowl and mosquitoes.

Riparian buffers will also be added along drainageways and the Owasco Inlet to further reduce nutrients and sediment inputs.  Construction of this project is planned to begin this year.  Overall, the project will reduce phosphorus and sediment that reaches Owasco Lake while improving habitat for invertebrates, reptiles, amphibians and birds.