Sewage & Stormwater / Volunteers / Western Sound

People Power: Citizen Watchdogs Get the Job Done

The partnership of citizens across Long Island Sound is critical to Save the Sound’s work. We rely on volunteers to conduct coastal cleanups, support legislative initiatives, collect water quality samples and speak out for clean water practices in their communities.

One very important role that citizens can fill year round is that of Pollution Watchdog!

To be a watchdog, review the examples of water pollution below and contact Save the Sound with documented reports of pollution in your community. We will do our best to make sure the pollution source is eliminated and the public is notified if a public health threat is present. Email us photographs and/or video along with a written description of the incident, including location and time, at pollution@savethesound.org.

What to Look For

Raw sewage flowing through a storm drain. The grey slimy film in the pipe indicates an ongoing sewage overflow. Raw sewage will have an odor that combines bathroom waste with cleaning products from washing machines, showers and other waste streams that can give it an overall ‘sweet’ smell. This overflow was discovered by a citizen watchdog patrolling the Hutchinson River in Mount Vernon.

Raw sewage flowing through a storm drain. The grey slimy film in the pipe indicates an ongoing sewage overflow. Wastewater includes cleaning products that give it a vaguely “sweet” smell. This overflow was discovered by a citizen watchdog patrolling the Hutchinson River in Mount Vernon.

Pipes draining into our waterways should not be flowing in dry weather. “Dry weather overflows” like the one pictured above in this are violations of MS4 permits. This overflow was documented by a watchdog checking the repair work at the Jefferson Avenue Bridge in the Village of Mamaroneck.

Pipes draining into our waterways should not be flowing in dry weather. “Dry weather overflows” like the one pictured above are violations of MS4 permits. This overflow was documented by a watchdog checking the repair work at the Jefferson Avenue Bridge in the Village of Mamaroneck.

This dry weather overflow was documented by Save the Sound staff on a patrol of the Hutchinson River in the Bronx. We are working with the EPA to address this and other dry weather overflows we documented on the Hutchinson, aided by a volunteer boat captain and local watchdog.

This dry weather overflow was documented by Save the Sound staff on a patrol of the Hutchinson River in the Bronx. We are working with the EPA to address this and other dry weather overflows we documented on the Hutchinson, aided by a volunteer boat captain and local watchdog.

Sewer manholes should not overflow during rain or at any other time. When these manholes overflow the raw sewage in the wastewater flows into the nearest catch basin and is dumped into a nearby stream or waterfront through the storm drain system.

Sewer manholes should not overflow during rain or at any other time. When these manholes overflow wastewater flows into the nearest catch basin and is dumped into a nearby stream or waterfront through the storm drain system.

You can identify a storm drain that is overflowing in wet weather by waste stream materials found around the manhole after the overflow stops (i.e. tampon cases, condoms, baby wipes). This overflowing manhole was found by a citizen while on a walk in the Marshlands Conservancy in Rye. The report was given to Save the Sound and a repair has been made.

You can identify an overflowing manhole in wet weather by waste stream materials found around the manhole after the overflow stops (i.e. tampon cases, condoms, baby wipes). This overflowing manhole was found by a citizen on a walk in the Marshlands Conservancy in Rye. The report was given to Save the Sound and a repair has been made.

Elements of the sewage collection system, like the pump station pictured above, can also fail and overflow sewage into the environment, especially during rain events. If you don’t mind the rain, that is the perfect time to take a walk and see how your wastewater infrastructure is holding up.

Elements of the sewage collection system, like the pump station pictured above, can also fail and overflow sewage into the environment, especially during rain events. If you don’t mind the rain, that is the perfect time to take a walk and see how your wastewater infrastructure is holding up.

Sediment is a water pollutant that is harmful to the creatures and plants that live in our waterways, threatening the entire aquatic food chain. Any substance that changes the color of a waterway is a pollutant. The image above is of the Mamaroneck Harbor after rain washed red clay from nearby tennis courts into storm drains and ultimately right into the harbor next to the public beach. Citizen watchdog Katherine Desmond documented this problem on a number of occasions and succeeded in getting the Village to come up with a plan to stop this repeat water quality violation.

Sediment is a water pollutant that is harmful to the creatures and plants that live in our waterways, threatening the entire aquatic food chain. Any substance that changes the color of a waterway is a pollutant. The image above is of the Mamaroneck Harbor after rain washed red clay from nearby tennis courts into storm drains and ultimately right into the harbor next to the public beach. Citizen watchdog Katherine Desmond documented this problem on a number of occasions and succeeded in getting the Village to come up with a plan to stop this repeat water quality violation.

These are just a few examples of what to look for and what can be achieved when we educate ourselves on the potential sources of water pollution, take the time to pay attention to our surroundings, document the problems we see, and report them! Please do your part and be the eyes and ears (and noses) we need out on our waterways. Together we can route out and eliminate water pollution!

Remember to document all the details of a potential pollution event you find, including exact location, time and a detailed description of what you see and smell. And take plenty of photographs or video!

If you see someone engaged in illegal dumping call 911 and have them stopped. And be safe.

Thanks for all you do!

Questions? You can email Tracy Brown (tbrown@savethesound.org) for more information.

4 thoughts on “People Power: Citizen Watchdogs Get the Job Done

  1. Pingback: Now Is the Time! Check for Sewage Overflows | Green Cities Blue Waters

  2. Pingback: New Yorkers: Sign Up for Sewage Overflow Alerts | Green Cities Blue Waters

  3. Pingback: A Time to Be Grateful: A Healthy Sound for 2016 | Green Cities Blue Waters

  4. Pingback: A Watchdog visit to Byram River | Green Cities Blue Waters

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s