Thursday, May 28, 2015

CSO Is Front Page News

Once upon a time, you would never hear about an instance of combined sewer overflow unless you attended a Common Council Public Works Committee meeting and DPW superintendent Rob Perry mentioned it in his report, which rarely happened. Now, when Perry is getting pushback about the plan to separate the sewer lines that would discharge untreated storm water directly into North Bay, it makes the front page of the Register-Star, above the fold: "Heavy rain leaks sewage into North Bay."


  1. CSO events are to be expected, and yesterday's was within our state-permitted sewer use (SPDES). Overflows are unfortunate, but hardly surprising with that volume of rain.

    It will be recorded with the Division of Water in a sewage discharge report along with scores of other municipalities who also overflowed, some in the millions of gallons.

    There's no controversy that combined sewer overflows are deleterious to the environment. This debate is about reasonable alternatives and who gets to discuss them.

    Even the aldermen are unaware that the city already has a state-approved separation plan to store runoff until it can be treated. But as soon as $600K appeared on the horizon, the earlier and unknown plan was jettisoned without public knowledge and without discussion.

    There are any number of ways to mitigate the hazardous impacts of runoff, but the city DPW circumvented the hassle of public input to opt for the dumbest one of all - to dump the runoff directly into the wetlands, an ecosystem none of them could care less about.

    Every inch of the way, the public was required by federal policy to be a partner in all CSO decisions. In Hudson, however, the public was intentionally excluded. In a 2008 letter obtained by FOIL request, we find Mayor Scalera's in-law, the newly appointed DPW Commissioner, reassuring the state that a CSO Committee had been formed. But the ostensibly public committee only included the Mayor (Scalera), DPW Commissioner Folz, Rob Perry, DPW employee Melissa Finn, and the DPW's engineering consultant. It would be years before the public learned about this committee, nor did the state have the wherewithal to question it.

    It's no surprise that we're now facing Hobson's choice, a free choice in which only one option is offered.

    Ask why "there is no money included for environmental review." That's unheard of for an infrastructure grant, and the public shouldn't accept this at face value. Something's wrong with that, but are we to find out what?

    The threat of losing this funding is not the public's emergency. We were maneuvered into the present bad position. If the grant is threatened, then let the mayor explain the real reasons why. It may be unfair to him, but he must also take the hit for years and years of past mayors cheating the public and cheating proper procedure.

    In future, and soon, let's make a commitment to separate Hudson's sewers correctly. But for the sake of the North Bay, now is the time to reject Hudson's shady past.

  2. Reaping the benefits of removal of "engineer status" from qualifications to run the HDPW.