Joan Hartley

State Senator

Joan Hartley

Chief Deputy President Pro Tempore

An Independent Voice

April 15, 2021

Sen. Hartley Supports Senate Passage of Updated ‘Sewage Spill Right-to-Know’ Law

State Senator Joan Hartley (D-Waterbury), joined in bipartisan approval of a bill that requires the state Department of Energy and Environmental Protection (DEEP) to implement a “real time” public notification system that allows individuals to be notified of sewage spills, or of permitted sewage bypasses, within two hours of those incidents being reported to DEEP.

The bill also requires DEEP, by February 1, 2022, to begin annually publishing and making publicly available on its website summary information about sewage spills in Connecticut.
Senate Bill 927, “An Act Concerning Revisions to the Sewage Spill Right-to-Know Statute,” now advances to the state House of Representatives for consideration. The bill passed the Environment Committee on a unanimous and bipartisan vote in mid-March.

“Our rivers and the overall natural beauty of Connecticut’s environment are a primary reason why people choose to settle here or to visit Connecticut,” said Sen. Hartley. “We have an obligation to make every effort to improve communication between state agencies and communities when environmental hazards occur. This bill works to fulfill that obligation.”

In 2012, the Connecticut General Assembly passed the “Sewage Right to Know Law” in order to post online more timely information for the public regarding discharges into state waters and sewage spills.

  • More than 80 utilities in Connecticut post live on the DEEP website, available at:

But in the past couple years, sewage spills in the state have surprised town leaders and residents with the scope and impact of the spill.
In January 2018, 6,000 gallons of hydraulic oil spilled into the Naugatuck River, prompting state officials to warn against fishing and eating fish in the river from Waterbury to the Long island Sound.

Environmental advocates say sewage spills not only affect people who may be boating, fishing or swimming in a river or the ocean, but also threaten state industries like oyster farmers, who plant thousands of cured shells in estuaries, where rivers meet the sea.

Under existing state law, sewage treatment plants or collection system operators must report to DEEP within two hours of learning of a sewage spill. This legislation requires the inclusion of permitted sewage bypasses. The electronic report must include a variety of information, including:

  • The incident date, time, and location
  • The estimated or actual time that the discharge ended, if known
  • The geographic area impacted by the discharge
  • The estimated discharge volume or rate and, once known, the final discharge volume
  • The discharge treatment level
  • Steps taken to contain the discharge, once known
  • Any reasonable concerns about the environment or public health, safety, or welfare
  • Any public safety precautions that should be taken.

Current law also requires a sewage plant or system operator to notify the chief elected official of the municipality where the spill occurred, with notice given within two hours of learning of a spill that exceeds — or is anticipated to exceed — 5,000 gallons.

Senate Bill 927 will instead require a release or permitted bypass of any size to be noticed to a town’s chief elected official and the local public health official. If said spill has potential to impact public health, safety or the environment, the municipal leaders must notify the public within two hours of receiving the information.

Under existing state law, failing to report a sewage spill is already a crime punishable with a fine up to $25,000 per day.