There’s legislation circling around in Albany that would require public alerts when wastewater spills into the Hudson River and other waterways–because currently, there’s no state law requiring the state’s 643 water treatment plants to give the public a heads up when shit spills into our water. FYI: overflows routinely occur during huge rainstorms and places with combined systems, like NYC, and overflows pollute water with all the fun pathogens and microorganisms that live in your poop.

If the measure is passed, Publicly-owned sewage treatment plants and sewer systems would be required to fess up to conservation/health authorities within two hours of a craptastrophe and post a public alert via “electronic media” within four hours. NYC’s Department of Environmental Protection, made up of 14 treatment plants and 423 outlets, has “updates” in the form of an online map that displays unclean waterways in violent red. Aside from the horrifying image of a city waterway turned red with our shit, a passively updated map nested deep in the NYC.gov labyrinthe is not an effective PSA.

The bill hasn’t reached Governor Cuomo’s table (it will soon), but it was diluted on the way, excusing partially-treated “discharges” that qualify under a state-approved plan or permit. This version also only requires public notice if the overflow threatens public health. These compromises pushed back the date of implementation by three months, so we can unconsciously wade in our own waste until the bill’s implementation on May 1, 2013.

As quoted in the Bennington Banner, Tracy Brown of Riverkeeper said NY generally has good water–but “as a general rule of thumb, when it rains, stay out of the water probably 48 hours.”

(Photo: zim2411/Flickr)