It turns out there have been two discharges of untreated wastewater by the City of Binghamton, N.Y., into the Susquehanna River this month, and last week’s totalled more than initially reported.
A public safety alert issued by New York State officials over the weekend included an updated discharge volume of more than 48.5 million gallons in an incident that began on Aug. 13 and lasted 147.75 hours, for a total of six days.
It was not the first such incident this month, however.
Binghamton also released nearly 6.5 million gallons of untreated wastewater into the river on Aug. 7, according to Spectrum News, a 24-hour cable news channel in New York State.
Joseph Yannuzzi, Binghamton’s sewer superintendent, did not return repeated phone calls from the Times Leader seeking comment.
Yannuzzi did tell Spectrum News heavy rain overflowed Binghamton’s sanitary sewer lines.
“When heavy rain overflows, the sanitary lines fill up, they have to go someplace and if we didn’t let them go out with our CSO’s (combined sewer overflow), they would eventually back up into people’s houses,” Yannuzzi was quoted as saying.
He also told the station that such overflows are built into the system design and are “not violating anything.”
Last week, the Susquehanna River in Wilkes-Barre reached 28.77 feet due to heavy rain throughout the Northeast. Runoff from farmlands and tributaries of raging creeks and streams in the northern tier created a solid brown color to the river.
Colleen Connolly, community relations coordinator for the Northeast office of the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection, said last week that her agency was not notified by New York officials of the discharge. She also indicated DEP did not expect any harm thanks to how much water had been channeled into the river.
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 State 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.
Whether an agreement is in place between the two states regarding notification of when potentially harmful wastewater is discharged into the Susquehanna River could not be confirmed Monday.
Inquiries to NSYDEC in Albany, N.Y., and Pennsylvania’s DEP in Harrisburg about an interstate notification agreement were not returned.
A 2015 survey by NYSDEC of the Susquehanna River states agricultural activity, municipal wastewater discharge and urban storm runoff are the primary source of significant nutrient concentrations to the river.
The Susquehanna River originates at Otsego Lake in Cooperstown, N.Y., and flows about 80 miles before entering Pennsylvania, where it flows for approximately 15 miles before bending north and re-entering New York for 45 miles before re-entering Pennsylvania. The river is 474 miles long and drains a 27,500 square mile basin that terminates in the Chesapeake Bay in Maryland.