Thursday, June 18, 2015

Say What?

The battle over storm water being directed into North Bay has been raging for three months. Now today, the Register-Star reports that DPW superintendent Rob Perry, who has regularly started his presentations about this project by bemoaning Hudson's ancient sewer system and preaching the horrors of CSOs (combined sewer overflows), claims the proposed project will have no effect whatever on the way things are: "DPW head: Project will not dump untreated storm water into bay." In the article, Perry is quoted as saying, "When this project is done, everything stays the same." 

So it seems the plan is to spend $600,000 to lay 525 feet of pipe, but the pipe intended to carry the storm water will not be used and the sewer will not actually be separated until the completion of some undefined number of next steps (all presumably dependent on getting grant money), in a master plan that, according to Perry, involves a total of fifty steps. If this is true, one has to wonder why Perry waited so long to reveal it. If this is true, one also has to wonder if the entire plan was ever reviewed to assess its environmental impacts and if it is available for review by the Conservation Advisory Council as well as members of the public. One of the members of Hudson's new CAC created a green infrastructure storm water management plan for Bard College that was implemented in 2014-2015. Her input could be of great value to the City's storm water management efforts.


  1. The NYS DEC's downloadable Sewage Discharge Reports are found under the heading "Sewage Pollution Right to Know," a law enacted in 2013.

    "The law requires that discharges of untreated and partially treated sewage discharges are reported by publicly owned treatment works (POTWs) and publicly owned sewer systems (POSSs) within two hours of discovery to DEC and within four hours of discovery to the public and adjoining municipalities."

    A Sewage Discharge Report provides "Information based on the 2 hour sewage discharge reports from publicly owned treatment works (POTWs) and publicly owned sewer systems (POSSs) submitted to DEC [and] compiled in the searchable, sortable spreadsheet, Sewage Discharge Reports, (Excel,155 KB)."

    So why is the only entry for the City of Hudson during the entire history of the program dated July 2, 2013? (The database was last updated on June 3, 2015.)

    It's fair to ask, and it further begs Alderman Friedman's request to know the proper context of these numbers the DPW is throwing out.

    Of course the only proper context for measuring any and all numbers is the total volume of streetwater runoff the city plans to divert directly into the North Bay.

    In that regard, we need the city and our representatives to understand what a rational decision looks like. A rational decision, as Mr. Friedman explained, is currently impossible, at least based on the self-interested arguments and raw numbers provided by the Department of Public Works.

    The law says we have a right to know, so why is this only being discussed at the 11th hour, with the powerful 5th Ward Alderman Donohue chiming in on cue that "we've talked about this long enough!!" (If I had a nickel for every time we've heard that!)

    Well, I think I just answered my own question ...

  2. The city spent an "extra" $4.5 million tearing up front street with the sewer upgrade and now another $600K? That's $5 million that could paid Hudson's share of a new (joint) storm water plant with Greenport, which has the exact same problem with storm surge during heavy rains.

    The city took river access away at North Dock saying they needed the land for this project, they lied. They said the were going to separate storm from sewer water, again they lied. Why should we now continue to fund their fraudulent half measures?

  3. Now I'm not saying anyone "lied." The issue I mention above is more complicated than that, besides which, spin is spin so that it can't be called a lie.

    For example, if DPW Superintendent Perry really reversed what he's been saying for months to now claim that the project won't dump any runoff into the bay, he's conveniently shifting between different levels of the project to win this or that argument. It's not very honest, but its also not a lie. (In fairness, the context for these paraphrases was set by the journalist.)

    Alderman Freidman sought a context for the arbitrary numbers thrown out by Mr. Perry, but now we have the grand context available in the state's two-year old collection of Sewage Discharge Reports.

    Of the 2,696 state-wide overflow reports since the Right Know law was passed, Hudson is listed once in 2013.

    A Register-Star story on March 12 quoted DPW Superintendent Perry as saying there were “'probably a handful' of combined sewer overflows (CSOs) in 2014."

    Because they're not listed in the state database, this handful of overflows were either not from the plant itself (in which case they should still be documented, as per Hudson's agreement with the state), or they were very minor events.

    If that's the empirical state-wide context in which to understand the numbers, then perhaps the best immediate context for appreciating the DPW's mixed messages is the $600,000.

    Okay, it wouldn't surprise me to learn that the state failed at listing some reports; the Division of Water is dysfunctional enough for just about any kind of screw up.

    But if that's true, then Messrs. Perry, Moore, and Whitbeck should settle on a single account of the NYSDEC and quit the continuously shifting opportunism.

    Mimicking their other patterns of convenience - first they're dumping water in the bay, and now they never were - they'll eagerly cite the state as gospel ("mandated requirement"), before the inconvenient DEC eMapper is dismissed as "not gospel." Next we'll hear that the Sewage Discharge Reports aren't gospel either, until they are the next time the wind blows the other way.

    This issue now encompasses more than just the sewers. In attempting to do the right thing, which is only TO ASK WHAT THE IMPACTS MIGHT BE from this project plan, residents are confronted with the age-old pattern which continues to stunt this community.

    I won't say our officials are lying, but they must known the spin is wearing thin. Nowadays, each time they try to pull the wool over the public's eyes they lose even more credibility.

    This is what old paradigms look like when they're breaking down, and it's fascinating to watch in an election year. The people on the way out are always the last true believers in their own authority.

    Next week they'll bring back Delaware Engineering to provide life-support, but those people have their own explaining to do. How could they have screwed up the EAF? (How indeed ...)

  4. Clean water, and our access to it, are not rights "issued" by the state.