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Earth Matters

Dumb Luck Averts Environmental Calamity in Nyack

by Susan Hellauer

Sometimes two wrongs do make a right—or at least a narrow escape.

At about 3p last Saturday afternoon, businesses along Nyack’s Main Street across from Veterans Memorial Park were alarmed by a strong petroleum odor. The owner of Prohibition River posted on Facebook that he “initially . . . thought it was a gas leak but when O&R found nothing we figured out it was coming from the sewer pipes.”

The Orangetown Sewer Department, along with Nyack’s Village Administrator and Building Inspector responded immediately, according to Village of Nyack mayor Don Hammond.

What happened? Orangetown Supervisor Chris Day posted a report on his Facebook page the following Monday:

. . . approximately 150 gallons of fuel oil was dumped into a sump pump at 112 Main Street in Nyack. This sump pump was illegally connected to our sewer lines, and the resulting fumes down the line caused issues at neighboring businesses.

This incredibly irresponsible abuse of our environment is currently being investigated by NYS DEC [Department of Environmental Conservation] Police and our Department of Environmental Management and Engineering, and violations and penalties will be issued against the perpetrators in accordance with the law.

Counterintuitively, in this case the illegal connection to our sewer line may have been a blessing in disguise, as the dumped oil would have otherwise ended up untreated in the stormwater system, which would have had significant environmental impact.

memorial park

Nyack’s stormwater, from streets, downspouts and sump pumps, heads straight for the Hudson River. Photo of Memorial Park: Nyack Parks Conservancy

What’s next? No culprit has yet been named publicly, but Day said today that “at this time [the Town of Orangetown is] continuing to work on the penalty side along with the NYS DEC Police.”

In a statement to Nyack News and Views, Mayor Hammond expressed shock at the reckless deed that could have put about 150 gallons of fuel oil directly into the Hudson River:

The action of dumping fuel oil into a sump pump was incredibly unfortunate as well as illegal.   

This demonstrates the problem of illegal hookups to our sewer system, a problem that we will continue to work with Orangetown to develop strategies to correct. This will go a long way toward solving the inflow and infiltration problem that currently exists.

The inflow and infiltration Hammond cites is the major cause of rainy-day sewage overflows at the Spear Street sewage pumping station near the Nyack marina and boat launch. The Town of Orangetown is under DEC oversight to correct this source of Hudson River pollution. Sewage pipe slip linings and replacement, dye testing and a search for illegal hookups are all underway by Orangetown environmental engineers and the Village of Nyack.

Stay tuned . . .

Sewer system green dye testing at a Nyack Brook on Main Street.

A bilious green Nyack Brook on Main Street shocked villagers recently. It was all a (nontoxic) part of dye testing to find sources of I&I in SSOs. Photo: Dr. Kristina Wodicka via Village of Nyack Facebook group

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Earth Matters, a weekly feature that focuses on conservation, sustainability, recycling and healthy living, is sponsored by Maria Luisa Boutique, Dying to Bloom, Strawtown Studio, and Blue Rock School.

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