Getting after sewer spills

By Karen Miller
Upper Saddle River, N.J.
(Original Publication: June 23, 2006)

In response to your recent article on the 40 raw sewage spills in Rockland, over the past five years, Rockland Sewer District No. 1 has allowed 1 million gallons of raw sewage to spill into the streets and into the Saddle River.

I live downstream from these overflows, in Upper Saddle River, N.J. When the South Monsey Road manhole cover overflows raw sewage, it ends up in the river. The Saddle River is one of only two natural trout-breeding streams in Bergen County, and is a place where our children enjoy playing..

When I first heard about these overflows, I was appalled. Apparently it was the Sewer Commission's dirty little secret that local residents knew about only too well, and one that the Sewer Commission not only ignored but denied. Historically their response has been to replace the manhole covers, repair the road if needed and to spread lime on the waste. During an overflow on Jan. 18, a local resident took samples from a South Monsey Road spill. The sample was taken to the Northwest Bergen Health Commission for testing. The results came back that it contained more than 200,000 coliform units per 100 milliliters of water, which is 100 times greater than people should come in contact with.

It was only after residents decided that enough was enough and began complaining in large numbers to local authorities that the Sewer Authority finally acknowledged this problem. Thankfully, the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation and Rockland District No. 1 reached a consent order, in which the county will agree to a timetable for the repairs.

Comments by Julius Graifman, chairman of the Sewer District's Board of Commissioners, that the Sewer Authority was being used as a tool to halt a religious project on Hillside Avenue is disgraceful. This is just one more example of how the Sewer Commission continues to trivialize and even dismiss the potential health hazard posed by one million gallons of raw sewage spilling into our streets and waterways.