Bureau of Sanitary and Stormwater Sewers
The Bureau of Sanitary and Stormwater Sewers cleans, maintains, and manages repairs on hundreds of miles of storm and sanitary sewer, over 3,000 catch-basins, and 3,000 manholes City-wide. They inspect sewers and manholes in areas that are considered trouble areas in order to minimize blockages and backups. The Bureau is also responsible for responding to any sewer related emergencies which can include sewer blockages, sanitary sewer overflows, sewer breaks, and resident complaints.
The Bureau of Sanitary and Stormwater Sewers and the Engineering Bureau are together responsible for executing the City’s Municipal Separate Storm Sewer System (MS4) program and complying with the recent Illicit Discharge Consent Decree. This is completed through inspection, monitoring, enforcement, sewer rehabilitation and maintenance, and correction of sources of illicit discharge to our storm sewer system and waterways. More information about the individual programs is provided through the links below.
Sanitary sewers collect wastewater from homes and businesses that have plumbing connected to the City’s sanitary sewer pipes via laterals. These sewer pipes run under the streets and convey the wastewater to the wastewater treatment plant where the water is treated.
Stormwater sewers convey water from rain and melting snow that does not soak into the ground, but runs overland into roof gutters, road drains, and ditches to local rivers and streams without treatment. As water flows overland, it picks up pollutants such as litter and oil and grease and conveys them through the storm sewers to our rivers and streams.
The City performs regular street sweeping to minimize chemicals and trash that end up in our storm sewers. Residents can help minimize pollutants by properly disposing of pet waste, cigarette butts, and trash, checking that their cars do not leak oil and grease, and ensuring that cars are not parked in the way of street sweepers.
The below infographic from the EPA shows common pollutants that end up in our storm sewers.
In response to a United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) mandate under the Clean Waters Act, the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (NYSDEC) initiated its Phase II Stormwater Permit Program in 2003, with the State Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (SPDES) General Permit for Stormwater Discharges from Municipal Separate Storm Sewer Systems (MS4 Permit). Small MS4s that are located within defined urbanized areas are regulated under this MS4 Permit and must develop a stormwater management program to reduce pollutants transported by stormwater during storm events to waterbodies. The goal of the program is to improve water quality and recreational use of waterways. Since 2003 the NYSDEC has issued subsequent MS4 Permits.
The City of Mount Vernon (City) is a publicly funded entity that owns and operates separate stormwater sewer systems within urbanized areas and is therefore considered an MS4 and is required to obtain permit coverage under this program.
The Stormwater Management Plan
The Stormwater Management Plan establishes long-term programs, policies, and procedures to improve water quality. The plan includes the following measures to reduce the discharge of pollutants:
- Public Education and Outreach on Stormwater Impacts;
- Public Involvement/Participation;
- Illicit Discharge Detection and Elimination;
- Construction Site Stormwater Run-off Control;
- Post-Construction Stormwater Management;
- Good Housekeeping for Municipal Operations.
The MS4 Permit requires that each MS4 have a Stormwater Management Plan to document developed, planned, and implemented Stormwater Management Program elements. The City’s latest Stormwater Management Plan can be found at the link below.
- Public Education and Outreach on Stormwater Impacts
The stormwater education and outreach program is a component of a larger Department of Public Works effort to increase awareness and engagement related to infrastructure and environmental issues. The City’s most successful education and outreach has been through Neighborhood Association meetings and Town Hall meetings, but the City also utilizes flyers, e-mail distribution lists, and displays at City Hall and the City’s libraries and schools to spread awareness and provide ways the public can contribute to the City’s stormwater efforts.
The City annually celebrates Public Works Week the third week of May. During this week, the Department of Public Works provides opportunities for the public to get involved in their work through Clean Up and Planting Events and Sewer Education and Maintenance Demonstrations.
- Illicit Discharge Detection and Elimination
The City has developed an Illicit Discharge Action Plan (IDAP) which provides methodology for tracking down sources of illicit discharges so they can be eliminated. An illicit discharge is any unauthorized connection, and any direct or indirect non stormwater discharge into the City’s storm sewer system. These illicit discharges, frequently pollutants and/or pathogens, are often caused by illegal sewage connections to the stormwater sewer or broken pipes that are leaking sewage. The City has started an aggressive program to clean and investigate sewers to find sources of illicit connections and eliminate them. For more information on the work the City is doing to eliminate illicit discharges, visit the Comprehensive Sewer System Investigation and Rehabilitation Program page.
- Construction Site Stormwater Runoff Control
A Stormwater Pollution Prevention Plans (SWPPP) is a plan that describes the strategies and steps that will be taken to prevent nonpoint source pollution discharging from a construction site. All capital and maintenance projects that disturb one acre of land or more require the development of a SWPPP. The SWPPP is the backbone of the construction process as it relates to erosion and sediment control, and stormwater management, both during construction and post construction. The SWPPP includes a description of all construction activity, temporary and permanent erosion and sediment control Best Management Practices, permanent stormwater management, and other pollution prevention techniques to be implemented throughout the life of the construction project. The SWPPP includes a combination of narrative plans and standard detail sheets that address the foreseeable conditions at any stage of construction.
- Employee Education and Training
The City’s DPW staff receive regular training on maintenance and inspection procedures for stormwater infrastructure, including training on detection and elimination of illicit discharges.
- Stormwater Management for Municipal Operations
As part of the City’s Stormwater Management Program, the City is evaluating their properties to determine potential sources of pollutants at each facility and then developing best management practices to reduce the risk of a release of pollutants to the environment.
MS4 Annual Reports
The City developes MS4 Annual Reports, as required by the MS4 permit, to summarize stormwater management activities completed each year. The reporting period is from March 1st of the current year to February 28th or 29th of the reporting year, and the final report is submitted by June 1st each year.
The draft MS4 Annual Report is available for public review from April 15th through May 15th each year. They are available online, at the DPW office, and through email request. Comments should be sent to the stormwater coordinator Jason Miller at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Flood and Sewer Backup Mitigation
The City has experienced several extreme rain events that caused flooding and sewer backups in several areas throughout the City. The City is committed to system wide infrastructure improvements to address these problems and improve the quality of life for residents.
Inspections: To help reduce the chance of flooding in the short term, DPW crews perform inspections of sewer infrastructure, clear debris from stormwater drains and sewers, and visit locations that have historically experienced flooding during rain events to confirm the catch basins are cleaned and the sewers are flowing.
Routine Cleaning: The DPW has a list of priority sewers that are cleaned monthly to prevent backups and blockages. Many of the sewers require cleaning due to defects in the pipes that cause a partial blockage and allow debris to build up. These areas are a priority for the City’s sewer rehabilitation work, and as repairs are completed many of the sewers can be removed from the priority list. The City frequently revises the list to ensure that it accurately reflects the needs of the sewer system.
The City has started a comprehensive plan to identify and repair damaged sanitary and storm sewers and eliminate illicit discharges of sanitary sewage into stormwater sewers. This work is a priority for Mount Vernon as the City is currently under a Consent Decree regarding the discharge of sanitary sewage into the Hutchinson and Bronx Rivers through the City’s stormwater outfalls. For more information on the investigation and rehabilitation work being done, please see the Sewer Investigation and Rehabilitation Program page.
What You Can Do
- Please report all flooding and backups to the sewer foreman at 914-665-2465. This information will help in the planning of system-wide improvements.
- Install a backwater valve if basement backups occur at your property. Assistance is available to Mount Vernon residents impacted by the sewer and water infrastructure crisis through the Governor’s Office of Storm Recovery’s Mt. Vernon Healthy Homes Program. Participating homes may be eligible for assistance including backup valve installation. Visit the Storm Recovery website for more additional information on the Healthy Homes Program.https://stormrecovery.ny.gov/mountvernon
- Review the flyers below, which share information on materials that can cause issues in sewers and your pipes if they are disposed of in sinks and toilets.
- Disposing of materials in the drain or toilet that do not breakdown in the sewers and can cause damage to your home’s plumbing as well as create clogs and backups in the City’s sewer collection system. Some common household items that frequently cause issues in the sewers are:
- Wipes and diapers (even disposable and flushable ones)
- Fats, oils, and grease – these solidify in the sewers once they cool and cause blockages and backups