Marsh Creek Spill Update: Pump Station Failed 2 Days Before Spill

Geneva Believer has obtained the content of a message sent to City Council members on the morning of Friday, August 4th 2017:

“On Wednesday night, our WWTP crews responded to alarms of a failure at the Marsh Creek pump station. A pump failed, causing the station to fill with untreated water. Our crews responded quickly and developed a temporary solution without any discharge into Marsh Creek. Crews were on hand yesterday designing the permanent repair, which will take a few weeks.

Late last night, our temporary repair failed, causing a minor amount of untreated water to get into Marsh Creek. Again, we quickly responded, made the repair, and are up and running again this morning.

Any discharge is required to be reported to the DEC, which has been done. Our crews have responded appropriately and swiftly, and I am confident that the solution is the right one.”

  • It turns out that every member of City Council was notified not only about Friday’s sewage spill, but also Wednesday’s pump station flooding. Why didn’t any Councilors alert the public on Friday morning of the potential health hazards posed by untreated sewage in Marsh Creek, Gulvin Park and Lakefront Park?
Gulvin Park ball field (Marsh Creek in foreground)
  • The message refers to “untreated sewage” as “untreated water” on two occasions, and the word “sewage” is absent from the entire message. The legal and scientific name for what was dumped in Marsh Creek is “untreated sewage,” and to call it “untreated water” may indicate either a gross lack of responsibility, or an intentional ploy to minimize the seriousness of the accident in the minds of elected officials.
  • The 5,000 gallon untreated sewage spill was referred to as a “minor amount of untreated water.” The DEC would disagree, as the spill was rated 3 out of 4 in the category of “How Severe.” And the DEC would also call it “untreated sewage.”
  • Why hasn’t the public been told about Wednesday’s pump station failure, which led to the spill?
  • What happened between Wednesday and Friday at that pump station?

City Finally Addresses the Marsh Creek Spill

A story on the Marsh Creek sewage spill by Steve Buchiere appeared on the front page of the Sunday August 6 edition of the Finger Lakes Times:

Geneva City Manager Matt Horn

GENEVA – City Officials say an estimated 5,000 gallons of untreated sewage spilled into Marsh Creek Friday morning.

City Manager Matt Horn on Saturday said a pipe failed at a pump station adjacent to the Marsh Creek Wastewater Treatment Plant at 45 Doran Avenue.

“City staff responded immediately upon discovering the issue, and had the repair completed within an hour,” said Horn, who added that the city immediately reported the incident via the state Department of Environmental Conservation’s NY-Alert system to ensure that public notification went out.”

The City of Geneva is required under the “Sewage Pollution Right to Know Law” to inform the public of any untreated sewage spill no later than four hours after the spill is discovered.

The law was amended in 2016, requiring the City to notify ONLY the DEC, who then send an alert to local media and subscribers through their NY-Alert system. However, it’s still not uncommon for cities to immediately issue their own public alerts in the event of a sewage spill.

Currently, the City of Geneva is under intense scrutiny over their failure to notify of residents living around the Geneva Foundry about known environmental hazards. Many residents don’t trust the city government to do things right. It would have been an important step in rebuilding that trust if the City had put out a public notice on Friday morning, warning residents and their pets to refrain from contact with the water in Marsh Creek and near the creek’s outlet on Seneca Lake.

But they didn’t take that step to protect the people of Ward 6 by giving them critical safety information.

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