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City officials: Sewer line has been leaking since summer

Saturday, October 22, 2016 - Updated: 1:08 AM


Recorder News Staff

Amsterdam officials said Friday raw sewage has been spilling into the North Chuctanunda Creek since the summer even after a new sewer line was installed along Forest Avenue.

The latest sewage leak, which was reported Wednesday, continued spilling an estimated 10 gallons of untreated sewage per minute as of Friday into the creek, which empties into the Mohawk River, according to the state Department of Environmental Conservation's website.

"We really don't know what's going on right now with this," City Engineer Richard Miller said Friday. "It's still coming out where the old leak was. It's a lot less but it's still there."

While the source of the leak has yet to be found, Miller said the location of the discharge is where a sewer line break in July had spilled raw sewage at an estimated rate of 50 gallons per minute.

Miller said city officials had hoped the discharge would clear itself out eventually, but the flow has reportedly continued at a reduced rate. He said the discharge could still end up cleaning itself out if its coming from groundwater contamination connected with the break from July.

Miller said dye tests are being performed on wastewater and manholes are being inspected to determine where the untreated sewage is leaking. As of Friday afternoon there had not been any "positive results" from the city's investigation.

Mayor Micheal Villa said rainfall on Thursday complicated the investigation but the city would "do whatever is necessary to remedy" the issue. He said hopefully the leak could be handled in-house, but if not, the city would hire a contractor again to make necessary repairs.

Miller said the city would continue to perform tests on Monday to pinpoint the leak.

The potential impact to public areas is reported to be unknown, but Villa had said drinking water for municipalities downstream does not appear to be affected to date. Drinking water was not reportedly affected by the leak in July, which is estimated to have spilled more than 500,000 gallons of untreated sewage into the creek.

A few weeks before that sewer line break, Amsterdam's Westside Wastewater Treatment Pump Station spilled more than a half-million gallons of partially treated sewage into the Mohawk River due to equipment malfunctioning.

Around the middle of August, construction crews completed installing more than 500 feet of new sewer line, replacing two manholes and added a new manhole along Forest Avenue. Miller had said the sewer line break was effectively bypassed on July 30, however, the groundwater was still contaminated where the leak occurred. He had estimated the groundwater would take some time to flush out because the break appeared to have been there for "quite a while."

Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced on Aug. 5 that Amsterdam would receive $5 million to improve its aging water infrastructure, with some of the funds going towards the sewer line replacement on Forest Avenue. The assistance includes a $1.25 million grant from the state Water Infrastructure Improvement Act and a zero interest loan totaling $3.75 million from the Clean Water State Revolving Fund.

Amsterdam had applied for the financial assistance prior to the last sewer line break, but the funding approval was expedited to provide relief to the city.