Update: Sludge spill raises questions, wrath

A spokesperson for the Department of Environmental Conservation provided the following information after print publication deadline: “After the spill, DEC and DOH alerted downstream public water supplies to take standard precautions, monitored for turbidity in the outlet, and determined that lake samples would not provide information to drive additional actions. DEC’s preliminary determination is that operator error caused the release of 66,000 gallons of partially disinfected and diluted digester sludge, of which an estimated 35,000 gallons entered the water. DEC’s investigation of the spill is ongoing. DEC is not currently planning to modify the water classification cited, but that status is regularly subject to further review based on new information.”

An accidental spill from the Penn Yan Wastewater Treatment Plant Aug. 24 resulted in up to 35,000 gallons of treated sludge entering the Keuka Outlet. While the signs warning people to not enter the water in the outlet between the treatment plant and Seneca Lake have been removed, there are still questions about the incident and any lasting effects, if any, on private drinking water systems.

A spokesperson for the Department of Health says drilled wells should not be impacted if they are located and constructed according to state design standards. But, notes Jill Montag, public information officer for DOH, shallow shore wells are influenced by surface water and can contain bacteria, parasites, viruses and other contaminants. “The Department of Health strongly recommends against the use of shore wells as a drinking water source for individual residences,” she wrote in an email.

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