Valves installed backwards led to over 500,000 gallons of waste leaking into the Mohawk River near Amsterdam, NY, Wednesday.
A malfunctioning pumping station at the Amsterdam city water treatment plant caused the sewage to leak into the river shortly after 3 a.m., said officials at the state Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC).
“Had to do with our valves at our pump station,” said Amsterdam Councilman Jim Martuscello.
Amsterdam officials said the reason the spills are occurring is because several valves replaced two years ago were actually installed backwards.
The city of Cohoes and the town of Colonie both draw their water from the river.
The Latham Water District, which supplies water for Colonie, as well as the city of Cohoes both said their water supplies were not contaminated by the leak.
“…We treat all of our water in the plant,” said Cohoes Mayor Shawn Morse. “Then it goes into a tank and we drink it. So whatever spilled in the river at 3 a.m. never made our drinking water.”
Morse said his city didn’t get word of the problem until 6 hours later.
“This is 2016 you can instant message somebody around the world in seconds,” Morse said. “There should be a system in place that we know as soon as it happens.”
Amsterdam has had several spills from its treatment plant in the last several months, a DEC spokesperson said.
If the valve problem isn’t fixed within the appropriate amount of time, the city could be fined several million dollars.
Councilman Martuscello said the Amsterdam city officials have already begun the process of correcting the issue.
“We transferred money from different line items and we are going to hire a company I believe in Johnstown that is familiar with the valves and they’re going to replace them immediately,” Martuscello said.
Because Amsterdam didn’t inform the public in the time stipulated under the Sewerage Pollution Right to Know Act, the DEC hit them with a notice of violation.
The Sewerage Pollution Right to Know Act requires leaks of public treatment plants and sewer systems to end up reported by municipalities that control them within 2 hours of discovery to the DEC and within 4 hours to the public.
Mayor Morse still wants to know why his city wasn’t notified within that time period.
“It’s a long time and although I don’t think this is a situation that’s going to cause any harm, what if it was,” Morse said.