Require sewer operators to alert the public of overflows
A pleasant day in a kayak can suddenly become a lot less lovely if you paddle through a swirling mass of untreated sewage. And, if you like water skiing, that bracing spray around you is a lot less refreshing if it bears the unwelcome taint of human excrement.
This is not a dystopian fantasy. Environmental groups have actually seen this kind of healthy activity in suddenly unhealthy waters. But a two-page bill sponsored by Assemb. Robert Sweeney (D-Lindenhurst) can help. The Assembly unanimously passed his Sewage Pollution Right to Know Act. Now the State Senate should pass it, too.
The bill has the backing of groups such as Citizens Campaign for the Environment and Riverkeeper, which keep close watch on sewage overflows from aging plants. It would require operators of publicly owned plants to report to the Department of Environmental Conservation, the local health department and other officials the details of overflows of untreated or partially treated sewage -- including the location.
With advance notification, kayakers, water-skiers and anglers could avoid smelly, health-threatening waters.
The City of New York says the act would cost millions. Actually, notification would be cheap but embarrassing: The city would have to report when heavy rains overwhelm its plants and dump sewage in its waters. Fixing that could later be costly, but necessary.
The Senate should reject the city's objection, embrace public health, and pass this commonsense bill.