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City officials unsure sewer leak is fixed; need to test water

Saturday, December 03, 2016 - Updated: 1:09 AM


By JOHN PURCELL

Recorder News Staff

Whether the latest sewer line repairs in Amsterdam has stopped the flow of raw sewage into the North Churctanunda Creek will not be known until the water can be tested, city officials said recently.

City Engineer Richard Miller said a section of new sewer line was installed along Sloane Avenue between Smith and Clarke avenues, replacing the extensively damaged clay pipe with modern plastic piping.

However as of Friday afternoon, stream levels were still high and officials were unable to test the water to see if the replacement stopped the leak. The point where the sewage is entering the creek has been underwater for several days, Miller said.

"As soon as it goes down we'll grab some samples and have them analyzed and see where we're at," he said. "It might look like crystal clear water, but I wouldn't drink it without running a test."

Rick Georgeson, spokesman for Region 4 of the Department of Environmental Conservation, said there are specific levels for contaminants outlined in the State Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (SPDES) permit for Amsterdam, so once levels fall below specifics of its permit the discharge would be considered ended.

Georgeson said the DEC has been providing technical guidance and information to help Amsterdam address the discharge. He said the leak is not like an underground stream where it can be pinpointed, because the sewage "flows through the nooks and crevices of the soil."

Around the middle of August, construction crews finished installing more than 500 feet of new sewer line, replacing two manholes and added a new manhole along Forest Avenue to address a leak discovered earlier this summer. Miller said the Forest Avenue repairs reduced the rate of discharge but did not appear to solve the problem.

Untreated sewage continued to spill into the North Chuctanunda Creek at an estimated 10 gallons per minute. City officials discovered the potential source of the leak earlier this month.

Miller said in a letter sent to the mayor and aldermen Nov. 15 they discovered that sewage entering sewer infrastructure at the manhole at Sloane and Smith avenues never made it to the downstream manhole at Sloane and Clark avenues.

Miller had said a video camera was placed into the 8-inch clay pipe at the Sloane and Smith manhole and there were cracks in the pipe, a hole approximately 21 feet down from the manhole and a broken pipe with soil visible approximately 45 feet down from the manhole. The biggest issue was an approximately 24-inch long hole discovered about 50 feet down the sewer line, which led to wastewater from the pipe being drained directly into the ground.

"About halfway between Clark and Smith (avenues) the sewer pipe was gone and the sewage was running into this hole and just disappearing," Miller said. "It was our suspicion that this is probably adding to it (the discharge) if not the main contributor."

Miller said he suspects the breakage is "one of the main players" in the ongoing issue, but there was something "strange" about the leak. He said when dye was placed into the sewer to locate the leak it did not turn up in the creek.

If the latest fix doesn't stop the flow, Miller said the city could look into installing a new manhole and a line could then be installed to route the sewage back into the sewer system.

Georgeson said the reason it is takingso long to correct the leak in Amsterdam is due to the aging infrastructure.

"More and more there of these types of incidents happening," Georgeson said. "It's not unheard of for it to take a long time to find these leaks."