Save the Sound Volunteer Helps Stop Sewage Spill at Marshlands in Rye

The Marshlands Manhole Spill

Prompt action by a Save the Sound volunteer and the Westchester County Department of Environmental Facilities resulted in a repair to a manhole had spilled raw sewage into Marshlands Conservancy nature sanctuary last month.

While walking at Marshlands, Phil Horner of Mamaroneck noticed the aftermath of a sewage spill from a manhole in the section of the sanctuary closest to Milton Harbor and the Rye Golf Club. The manhole leads to a county-owned sewer trunk line that traverses the low-lying areas of Marshlands and transports sewage from the Greenhaven section of Rye to the Blind Brook wastewater treatment plant.

A surge of combined wastewater and stormwater appears to have popped the manhole and led to the spill.

Talia Steiger, Save the Sound’s bacteria monitoring coordinator, visited the site with Phil, documented the evidence of an overflow at the manhole,and reported it to the county Department of Parks, Recreation and Conservation, which operates Marshlands. The parks department reported the spill to the Department of Environmental Facilities on June 17 and the DEF was onsite within 24 hours.

A DEF crew made a temporary repair, tack welding the manhole cover in place. Talia returned to the site July 3 and reported that despite the heavy rain of the night before, there was no sewage spill.

“The site is vastly improved from the first visit,” she said. “Workers appear to have done a good job sealing the loose manhole cover in place.”

Phil Horner and Talia Steiger
Phil Horner and Talia Steiger

DEF Commissioner Thomas Lauro has directed the crew to check the entire trunk line and determine if it needs a cleaning.

The DEF has also asked the parks department and other county departments, to have employees report sewage overflows to DEF immediately and has provided an emergency phone number to be posted atevery county facility. New York’s Sewage Right to Know Law requires that all sewage overflows be reported to the public within four hours of discovery and to the State Department of Environmental Conservation within two hours.

Phil Horner’s alertness and quick action underscore the importance of getting local residents involved in monitoring and restoring Long Island Sound.

Location of the spill. Click for a full size map.
Location of the spill. Click for a full size map.

A long-time member of Mamaroneck Village’s Committee on the Environment, Phil stepped up in the spring when Save the Sound put out a call for Westchester residents to volunteer to document sewer overflows. The overflows are one of the causes of the high bacterial counts that lead to the frequent closing of Long Island Sound beaches in Westchester.

“This is the way to get quick action on fixes,” he said. “I’ve been reporting water quality alarms for several years—Mamaroneck Village has a reporting page on their website and I’m a citizen volunteer on their Watch Team. To borrow from the MTA, ‘if you see something, say something.’ The quality of our water depends on it.”

Joining Save the Sound’s volunteer Pollution Patrol is one of the many actions you can take this summer and beyond to help us in our quest to make sure Long Island Sound beaches are clean and open all the time, for everybody. There is more information on our website about how to take the Long Island Sound Pledge.


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