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February 21, 2019


Historic building source of century-old sewage spills into Hudson

Albany's network of sewers misses 'illicit' hookup to storm drain

By Brian Nearing

HEARST-OWNED TIMES UNION  Updated 6:21 pm EST, Tuesday, January 29, 2019

ALBANY — For more than than a century, a historic building on Broadway has not been hooked into the city's sewer system, instead spilling its wastes into a storm drain going directly into the Hudson River.

City officials found the issue at the former Argus building at 412 Broadway last week as part of an investigation into the sewer system for the building next door, city Water Commissioner Joe Coffey said on Monday.

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The five-story Argus building, he said, was never hooked into the sewer system when the city last installed new lines along Broadway in 1913. Instead, the building's sewer line connected to an underground storm drain that went directly into the Hudson.

For many decades, the building served as offices for the architectural firm of Einhorn Yaffee Prescott  before being renovated several years ago into more than 30 apartments and a market.

"Someone back in 1913 was not doing their job," said Coffey. "When we find issues like this, we fix them."

It is difficult to tell how much sewage has gotten into the Hudson over the decades, he said, although a notice from the state Department of Environmental of Environmental Conservation estimated that the current rate was around five gallons a minute.

Coffey said the city Water Board will pay for the work needed to connect the Broadway building into the city sewer system and end the illegal discharges.

He said these "illicit" hookups are a challenge in the city as old as Albany, which has a maze of sewer and water pipes spanning different eras of civic engineering. He said the city is currently attempting to create a digital map of its sewer system to help it better under where all its pipes are.

City crews will be conducting further tests — using dye — of sewer systems in the Broadway area to determine if there are any other improper hookups, he added.

The state DEC — headquartered just a few blocks from the Argus building — learned of the situation through a report by the city required under the state Sewage Right to Know Act.

"The city is actively working to rectify the situation and is required to report back to DEC on its findings," according to DEC.