August 24, 2004

Beacon's raw sewage enters creek

Fixes expected by October

By Dan Shapley
Poughkeepsie Journal

BEACON -- Raw sewage is leaking into the Fishkill Creek near the Route 9D/Wolcott Avenue bridge -- about a half mile upstream from a swimming hole.

State and city officials have been aware of the problem for some time, but steep slopes in the area make it impossible for the city to fix it without help. And heavy rains, like those Saturday, make more sewage flow.

The Department of Transportation is to replace sewer lines in that area when it completes roadwork on Route 9D, according to the city and the Department of Environmental Conservation.

"It should be fixed by October," DEC spokeswoman Wendy Rosenbach said.

Department of Transportation officials could not be reached for comment Monday.

Like many old systems throughout the Hudson Valley and around the country, Beacon's sewers take on water during storms. While they are not designed to be "combined sewage overflow" systems that handle both storm water and sewage, leaks allow storm water to enter pipes, ultimately leading to overflows of raw sewage, City Administrator Joseph Braun said.

Pipes a century old

Beacon's sewage treatment plant is about 40 years old, and many of its pipes more than 100, he said.

Beacon has a two-pronged approach to fixing the system's problems, Braun said. It has spent nearly $1 million from the DEC to identify and eliminate places where storm water enters sewage pipes, and it replaces old pipes with newer ones whenever it can -- most often concurrently with roadwork.

"It's an ongoing effort. It's going to be expensive, and we're moving forward on it," Braun said, noting there are similar problems throughout the city and region.

Fishkill Creek Watershed Committee volunteers saw the leak during their assessment of the creek this summer, part of an effort to create a management plan to protect and restore the Hudson River tributary. Chairman Rick Oestrike said two, possibly three, sewage leaks along the creek in that area were the most alarming discoveries.

"Sewage, obviously, is loaded with bacteria and viruses. If you have kids play-ing along the stream, they may become infected. If you have fishermen fishing downstream of this area and eating the fish, perhaps they could become infected. That's the immediate concern," Oestrike said. "There's also an ecological concern. It's not good for the stream to be dumping all this stuff in there."

The DEC fined Beacon $10,000 in April for repeated violations at its wastewater treatment facility, according to the Environmental Protection Agency's Enforcement and Compliance History Online database.

Braun said that fine was unrelated to the leaking sewer lines. The city engineer could not be reached Monday.

On the Web

- Fishkill Creek Watershed Committee: []

- Environmental Protection Agency Enforcement and Compliance History Online:

Copyright 2005, Poughkeepsie Journal. Reprinted with Permission.
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