The Sewage Pollution Right to Know Act (“SPRTK”), which took effect on May 1, 2013, requires owners and operators of publicly owned treatment works (“POTWs”) and publicly owned sewer systems (“POSSs”) to report untreated and partially treated sewage discharges to DEC and health authorities immediately, but in no case later than two hours from discovery of the discharge. Partially treated sewage discharged directly from a POTW that is in compliance with a DEC approved plan or permit does not need to be reported. The rule also requires owners and operators of POTWs and POSSs to continue reporting for each day after the initial report is made until the discharge terminates. The rule defines a “POSS” as a municipally-owned system that discharges to a POTW owned by another municipality. A POSS is not required to obtain a SPDES permit.
DEC and NYSDOH will use sewage reports to evaluate and respond to incidents based on the severity of the potential environmental and public health impact. Reporting of sewage discharges may be used to assist DEC in making decisions on the closing of shellfish lands pursuant to 6 NYCRR section 41.4 and prohibiting shellfish activities pursuant to 6 NYCRR sections 42.17 and 47.4. DEC will also use sewage reports to direct wastewater utilities to take short term corrective action and to determine wastewater utility liability. DEC may take formal or informal enforcement action against wastewater utilities, including assessment of penalties and the institution of permanent corrective measures.
Reported sewage discharge information may also be used by NYSDOH and local health departments to assess the potential impact on public water supplies pursuant to 10 NYCRR Subpart 5-1 and to take corrective measures, if needed. NYSDOH and local health departments may use this information to provide guidance and assistance to private water supplies when contamination events occur and to make decisions on the regulation of bathing beaches pursuant to Public Health Law section 225 and 10 NYCRR Subpart 6-2.
The proposed rule would require owners and operators of POTWs and POSSs to notify the municipality where the discharge occurred and adjoining municipalities of untreated and partially treated sewage discharges within four hours of discovery. The rule would also obligate these entities to notify the general public of any such discharges to surface water within the same four hour time frame as these discharges may present a threat to public health.