Sewers, Inflow and Energy

It has been an intense eight months in my first term as Orangetown Supervisor.

I plan to write monthly from now on, and welcome questions and your suggestions on  topics.

Subjects I have in mind include: TZB2, Town services in the river villages (police, sewer, parks, etc.), local impacts of regional and global trends, green infrastructure, union contracts, and the County’s fiscal crisis.  It’s likely to be a bit wonky, but hey, I think it’s interesting and it is certainly matters.

Other ways to stay informed are: take out a free subscription to the Our Town weekly newspaper, tune into WRCR 1300 AM on Wednesdays at 8:45 for my weekly interview (I know, reception is horrible in the river villages, but you can listen on the internet), and review town board meetings on the  website,  www.orangetown.com

Now on to the topic for this month: sewers.
Our wonderful rail trail is also your sewer line, connecting all of our houses to the treatment plant in Orangeburg.  After it is treated, billions of gallons of purified water are piped to the Hudson via the outfall at Piermont Pier.

A heavy rainfall can triple the volume of water reaching the treatment plant, due to inflow of rainwater into sewer lines via cracks and illegal connections to roof gutters and sump pumps and the occasional parking lot storm drain.

This “inflow” can cause sewage overflows at the pump stations (Orangetown has 47 pump stations), backups of sewage into basements, and a rise in the costs of treatment (for example, the treatment plant is the town’s biggest consumer of electricity to run all those pumps).

To stop inflow, the Town uses “smoke tests” to find illegal connections and remote-controlled TV cameras to inspect sewer lines for cracks.  You can help by making sure your gutters and sump pump do not connect to the sewer, or even get fancy and install a rain barrel or rain garden to further control runoff and perhaps use it for your garden.  I recently created a brochure on this topic with help from volunteers (see Town website), and a local Scout troop has begun distributing them in Nyack, where inflow is a serious issue.  Mayor White is leading a Green Infrastructure Committee looking for better ways to handle stormwater runoff; the Piermont Library has a rain garden and the Sparkill Watershed Alliance is doing great work on these issues.

Remember, storm drains run to streams and our beloved Hudson River, carrying pollutants like lawn fertilizers, trash, grease and oil from our cars, and just plain dirt and grass clippings that are actually pretty bad for aquatic life.

Please keep a watchful eye on the storm drains in your neighborhood and report any incidents of illegal dumping or disposal of paint or other toxics to my office.

Thanks for reading.  Please send me an e-mail and let me know what you think about this issue and what other topics you’d like me to write about.

Andy Stewart is Orangetown Supervisor reach him at  supervisor@orangetown.com  or phone
359.5100 ext. 2274.