No Pennsylvania municipalities along the Susquehanna River were impacted by untreated wastewater discharged into the river by Binghamton, N.Y., according to a statement from the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation.
Binghamton discharged nearly 48 million gallons of untreated wastewater into the river beginning Aug. 13 due to overflow in its combined sewer lines caused by heavy rain, according to a New York safety alert. Another 6 million gallons of was discharged Aug. 7.
Binghamton Mayor Richard David told WNBF News Radio in New York the discharges “will continue in the future.” David said they happen when the sanitary system is overwhelmed and only a certain amount of wastewater can be treated.
The discharge occurred before wastewater reached a treatment facility co-owned by Binghamton and Johnson City. The facility was inundated by the Susquehanna River during the September 2011 flood, and has been undergoing renovations since then.
The NYSDEC statement says the state’s Sewage Pollution Right to Know Act requires municipalities to notify the public and adjoining municipalities of sanitary or combined sewage overflows. If an overflow impacts a community in another state, the reporting municipalities or DEC would ensure downstream communities are alerted.
Binghamton’s discharges were more than 36 miles from the Pennsylvania border, the statement says.
Despite the statement that no municipalities in Pennsylvania were affected, there is no inter-state agreement that requires New York to notify a neighboring state of untreated wastewater discharge into the river, according to Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection.
Public risks of untreated wastewater include a potential high level of pathogens, namely bacteria at high concentrations, according to a response to several questions posed to the DEP.
“With any discharge event there is the risk of bacteria and other contaminants being flushed into the river,” the response says. “However, given the heavy rainfall that caused the overflow, and increased water levels in the river and its tributaries, any contamination from the overflow would have likely been diluted.”
NYSDEC stated it required Binghamton to conduct river monitoring several years ago to determine impacts on the Susquehanna River. Sampling was conducted during wet and dry weather as well as when overflows are active.
Due to Binghamton’s combined sewer system, which is designed to transport domestic waste, stormwater runoff and industrial wastewater, a significant part of the discharge is stormwater runoff, the statement says.
During low river flow conditions, the river has naturally assimilated all discharges from Binghamton within approximately 12 miles of the discharge location. In flood conditions similar to last week, the river assimilates wastewater far more easily, the statement reads.