Scope and Content Note

The series consists of waste water sewage disposal files, including records on state inspection and regulation of sewage treatment facilities and projects and efforts to control water pollution resulting from unsanitary disposal of waste by corporate and private entities.

The records span many decades during which responsibility for monitoring and regulating water pollution and waste management resided with the Department of Health. Those responsibilities shifted to the Department of Environmental Conservation in 1970; the department also took primary responsibility for state policy on water pollution and waste management.

The records were first produced by the Bureau of Water and Waste Management and by the Bureau of Municipal and Industrial Wastes, which were both part of the Health Department. Since 1970 the files were produced by the Bureau of Municipal Operations. Coverage is statewide.

The records deal with the disposal of waste materials into state waters; the operation, construction, and design of sewage treatment systems; reporting on water testing and contamination; and attempts to prevent or abate pollution of state waters.

Furthermore, the series reflects the interaction of government at state and local levels, prompted by shared responsibility for public health and the protection and development of natural resources. Public and environmental health issues overlap in the areas of sanitation and facilities development. Public health laws prohibit the pollution of the waters of the state; waters are classified and certain quality standards are set within each classification. Local boards of health make and publish orders and regulations in support of the state sanitary code, and county health committees appoint sanitary inspectors.

Some of the files cover one institution over a long period of time. For example, the file for a county hospital begins with the original discharge permits for the proposed hospital in 1932, and ends with the approval of plans and specifications relating to installation of new steam boilers in the hospital in 1967. On the other hand, many of the records are permits dealing with individual citizens' camps located on lakes or rivers. Other files are concerned with villages' plans for disposal of waste material. The series also contains records on costs, reports and correspondence between state and local officials concerned with waste removal.

The series includes: permits and completed applications for permits to discharge sewage or effluent into state waters; correspondence setting down qualifying conditions to be met before issuance of a permit or approval of plans (e.g., relocation of water supply intakes, problems with waste treatment works design); administrative and inter-agency correspondence on progress or problems with various on-going projects; responses to letters of public complaint (e.g., discharge of raw sewage onto the ground, backup of sewer waters, malodorous or unsanitary conditions on private property resulting from corporate or state sources); design reports for proposed sewage treatment plants; maps showing locations of plant sites and stream or watershed areas; specifications for sewage and waste treatment plants and acknowledgements of receipt of plans and specifications sent for review and approval; conference memoranda and summaries of meetings attended by official department representatives; reports and administrative memoranda on examination of plans for treatment and disposal systems and/or approval of amended plans; minutes or transcripts of hearings concerning violations of sewage disposal regulations; memoranda on site visits, often in response to an emergency situation (e.g., oil spill into a river, repair of a gas line at a treatment plant, possible flood situation during winter thaw);

copies of legal complaints (filed against municipal governments and others) asking for continuance, revocation, or modification of permits to discharge sewage because of violations of the public health law; case reports on water pollution abatement programs and actions initiated or enforced in an attempt to halt or prevent contamination; results of water quality test samples and stream surveys often made to determine possible pollution according to state stream classification standards; and files on various industrial water pollution control projects, often including industrial surveys and related data (e.g., sludge formation and discharge from paper mills, proper chicken waste disposal on a poultry ranch).

There are maps scattered throughout the records, most often blueprint, whiteprint, photostatic or printed copies attached as exhibits or in support of sewage disposal plans. They present a variety of types from annotated topographic quadrangle maps to hand drawn sketch maps furnished as part of a particular application process. Consequently, title, scale, legend and preparer information varies. In some cases maps are dated, marked accepted by state officials, and/or signed by applicants and consulting engineers.

The maps may show: the location of specific facility or construct (e.g., treatment tanks in a disposal plant) or the location or distance of such a facility from the nearest body of ground water (sometimes with flow direction); existing or proposed sewer lines, sewage treatment systems, sewage disposal works or storm water drainage sewers within localities; sources and courses of water within a particular locality or topographic region, sometimes with the classification of the waters according to the state system; the location of proposed connections to county trunk sewers or larger existing sewer lines; locations of structures and/or obstructions (e.g., bridge crossing) in relation to sewer locations and the possible disturbance to existing streets or other avenues by proposed work; and location of specific site/condition in an investigative report (e.g., the wells in a complaint on salt waste in wells).

In addition to maps, the series also contains occasional photographs (sometimes annotated), general plans, cross sections, sectional diagrams, and sketches of sewer related structures (e.g., gates, manholes).