This year instead of a summer, we’ve had a monsoon season.
On average Kingston receives 47.48 inches of rain a year, with May being the wettest month. This summer alone we’ve been deluged with roughly 17 inches of the wet stuff. While my friends are all bemoaning the loss of blight ridden tomatoes, I’ve been worrying about a problem that runs a little deeper. Yup, I’ve been thinking about combined sewer overflow systems (CSO’s).
Kingston’s antiquated sewer system is a CSO. They were all the rage and considered the newest and greatest in waste flow management along the eastern sea board following the Civil War. The EPA defines these types of National Pollutant Discharge Elimination Systems (NPDES) as “remnants of the country’s early infrastructure and so are typically found in older communities.” They estimate there to be roughly 772 CSO communities in the US today.
A CSO was designed to collect rainwater runoff, domestic sewage and industrial wastewater all in the same pipe. This slurry of toxic sludge is transported to a sewage treatment plant. Periods of heavy rainfalls or quickly melting snow exacerbate the volume of storm water runoff so that it exceeds the capacity of the system. Excess, untreated wastewater instead empties directly into nearby bodies of water – in our case, the Rondout Creek. Also, because of their age, CSO’s often fail or collapse at an accelerated rate.
The city’s CSO problems have been simmering for decades. In the past, city officials have all but turned a blind eye to our failure prone sewer. However, the growing number of orange and white barrels and yellow sawhorses that adorn sagging or collapsed parts of our streets are too becoming difficult to ignore.
The City of Kingston has been recently cited by the DEC for failure to take aggressive action to stem the flow of raw sewage into our waterways. A fully developed plan was due in September 2007. The DEC has warned that the city faces daily fines of $37,500 until corrective action is taken and a plan produced. As a result the Kingston Common Council has approved the borrowing of $93,000 to hire Malcolm Pirnie, Inc. to complete the necessary study, which must be done during the rainy season.
As immense as the CSO issues are that face our community, the average citizen can do plenty to assist with storm water abatement. In the next ENVIRONMENTAL FOCUS ON KINGSTON we’ll discuss the variety of ways this can be achieved.
DID YOU KNOW: What can YOU do?
The city of Kingston has an ordinance that prohibits downspouts to be connected to the sewer system. City ordinance A407-106 states “No person shall discharge or cause to be discharged any stormwater, surface water, groundwater, roof runoff, subsurface drainage or unpolluted industrial process waters to any sanitary sewer.” You can read the rest of the ordinance HERE. Scroll down to the appendix and open Chapter A407: Plumbing Code Administration. You’ll find the entire entry under section A407-106 of Article XVII.