If the swollen Susquehanna River looks browner than usual, that could be due to the nearly 35 million gallons of untreated waste discharged into the river by the City of Binghamton, N.Y.
A public safety alert issued by New York officials says the discharge was due to heavy rain, construction at a waste treatment plant that was at capacity, and flood conditions.
The discharge of approximately 34,976,300 gallons of waste began Monday and lasted for almost 103 hours, or more than four days, the alert says.
The discharge came from combined sewer overflow, which collects domestic sewage, industrial wastewater and storm water runoff into a common pipe that flows into a wastewater treatment facility, according to the New York Department of Environmental Conservation (NYSDEC).
Binghamton treats its waste at a joint-owned facility with the Village of Johnson City.
A spokesperson at the joint-owned facility said the City of Binghamton discharged the waste before it reached the wastewater treatment center. She referred inquiries to the City of Binghamton.
Joseph Yannuzzi, sewer superintendent for Binghamton, did not return a message for comment Friday afternoon.
Pa. not told
The 2013 Sewage Pollution Right to Know Act in New York mandates that any discharge of partially treated or completely untreated waste water be reported to the New York Department of Environmental Conservation within two hours and that it be reported to the local municipalities the discharge could affect within four hours, according to the NYSDEC.
But that apparently applies only in New York.
Colleen Connolly, community relations coordinator for the Northeast office of the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection, said her agency was not notified by New York officials of the discharge, but she also didn’t expect any harm thanks to how much water also has been channeled into the river.
“Due to the heavy rains in the area, there are not likely to be any impacts from the discharge into the Susquehanna River,” Connolly said, adding that DEP has been monitoring river levels since several days of rain began rapidly swelling the waterway earlier this week.
The river crested at 28.77 feet late Wednesday morning in Wilkes-Barre, and was down to 11.5 feet by Friday afternoon.
The North Branch of the Susquehanna, which runs through Luzerne County, begins in Cooperstown, N.Y., and flows through Binghamton before it enters Pennsylvania. It joins the West Branch at Northumberland, near Sunbury, and the river then flows south into Maryland, where it empties into the Chesapeake Bay.