UTICA: SUNY Polytechnic Institute Associate Professor of Civil Engineering Dr. Carolyn Rodak has received a $7,296 grant from Cornell University’s Water Resources Institute, primarily funded by the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC), for a project that will develop and apply infrastructure performance metrics for wastewater systems in Upstate New York. The grant will support rising senior and Civil Engineering major Chance Walker’s work on the project.
Dr. Rodak and Walker will apply three performance metrics—Reliability, Resilience, and Vulnerability (RRV)—from water resources literature to evaluate the occurrence of sewage releases in the Mohawk Valley Watershed. These metrics can assess the frequency (reliability), duration (resilience), and severity (vulnerability) of sewage releases. Furthermore, the RRV framework provides metrics for communication of wastewater infrastructure performance and allows exploration of correlations between these metrics and others that may be of interest, including water quality data, infrastructure investment, climate data, and environmental justice indexes, along with socioeconomic indicators.
The Sewage Pollution Right to Know Act requires publicly-owned treatment works and operators of publicly-owned sewer systems to report to various entities the release of untreated or partially treated sewage. These entities can include the DEC, the local health department (or if there is none, the New York State Department of Health), officials of adjoining municipalities, and the general public, in certain instances.
In New York, residents can opt in to receive reports via NY Alert or search for the data in spreadsheet form for download on the DEC’s website. However, Dr. Rodak explains that the size and organization of these spreadsheets varies, as does the detail of information provided by each municipality, making them difficult to interpret. For example, the question, “how many sewage release events occurred in Utica, NY, in 2021?” cannot be easily answered despite the data being publicly available. In addition, there is a question of which performance metric(s) beyond general statistics would provide the clearest and most useful interpretation of the data.
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