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Robert K. Sweeney
Assembly District 11
Chair, Environmental Conservation Committee
Sewage Pollution Right to Know Passes Legislature
July 9, 2012

Assemblyman Bob Sweeney (D-Lindenhurst) and Senator Mark Grisanti (R-Buffalo) announced that the State Legislature has passed the “Sewage Pollution Right to Know” Act.

Many communities in New York State and throughout the nation are served by aging and dilapidated sewage infrastructure. The Sewage Pollution Right to Know Act will protect the public from avoidable exposures to sewage in our waterways by requiring Publicly Owned Treatment Works and Sewer Systems to report discharges of raw and partially treated sewage to the public and to local and state agencies in a timely manner.

Due to the decline in federal funding for wastewater infrastructure in recent decades, hundreds of wastewater treatment plants and sewer systems across New York State are using inadequate technology. As a result, hundreds of millions of gallons of raw and partially treated sewage is discharged into the waters we use to swim, boat, fish and in some cases, drink, each year.

“Discharges of untreated or partially treated sewage can pose a significant health risk to people that are fishing or swimming in contaminated waterways,” said Assemblyman Bob Sweeney, Chair of the Assembly Committee on Environmental Conservation. “The Sewage Pollution Right to Know Act will help ensure that New Yorkers receive notification about sewage overflows, so that they can take precautions to avoid unnecessary exposure to harmful sewage pollution.”

"In the last three decades, we have made tremendous strides in improving water quality throughout the state. However, billions of gallons of untreated or partially treated sewage are still discharged into public water supplies each year. The Sewage Right to Know bill will ensure that the public is informed when and where these discharges occur on an ongoing basis. This will significantly lower the risk of exposure to harmful bacteria and toxins, allowing New Yorkers to use our rivers and lakes safely," said Senator Mark Grisanti, Chair of the Senate Committee on Environmental Conservation.

“In this day of advanced communications there is no reason to allow the public to swim, fish, boat or recreate in waters contaminated with sewage. Warning the public of a clear health hazard before they enter polluted waters is a meaningful public policy that prevents families and children from becoming sick. We are thrilled that all municipalities will now be required to provide public notice of these dangers when they occur. CCE congratulates Assemblyman Sweeney and Senator Grisanti for their tremendous leadership to get this bill passed this legislative session,” said Adrienne Esposito, Executive Director of Citizens Campaign for the Environment.

"Riverkeeper knows firsthand how important information on water quality is to the public," said Paul Gallay, President and Hudson Riverkeeper. "People have the right to know what our government agencies already know - where and when sewage is discharged into the waters we swim, fish and boat in - so we can make informed decisions on where and when we get in the water."

The bill now goes to Governor Cuomo for his approval.

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