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Part of Auburn street closed after sewage overflow

AUBURN — For five and a half hours, sewage flowed from a manhole on Chapman Avenue Wednesday morning in Auburn, according to an alert issued by the state.

The street has been blocked off between crossroads Quill Avenue and Worden Avenue as crews work to make more permanent repairs. The section of the street will hopefully re-open Friday, said Auburn Municipal Utilities Director Seth Jensen.

According to the alert, root intrusion construction on Chapman Avenue for a replacement line was already in progress before the discharge was reported. Residents were cautioned to avoid the area. The discharge rate was estimated at 690 gallons per minute.

Under the 2013 Sewage Pollution Right to Know Act, New York municipalities with publicly-owned treatment works or sewer systems must report any untreated or partially treated discharge to the state within two hours. Municipalities are required to report the same information to the public within four hours of the incident. The state alert for Wednesday's incident was issued at 9:20 a.m. and it said the event started at 2:05 a.m.

"From time to time, issues in that area have happened," Jensen said.

Wednesday morning's "brief overflow" was contained and maintained, said Jensen. Centro Bus, the Auburn school district and local emergency officers have been notified of the road closure. 

Wet weather conditions — a common overflow instigator — led to the discharge. When sewers are met with significant amounts of rainfall or snow melt, they're designed to overflow into a waterbody. The state alert reported Oak Creek was affected by the discharge. Jensen said Oak Creek is not in the Owasco Lake watershed, so the city's drinking water supply was not jeopardized.

"Oak Creek runs underground from Chapman Avenue until it daylights just behind the (former) Walgreens building at the intersection of Genesee Street and Columbus Street," Jensen said. 

From the intersection, the creek flows to Crane Brook, where it eventually leads to the Seneca River.

Kevin Rivoli / Kevin Rivoli, The Citizen 

A manhole on Chapman Avenue in Auburn gets attention after a sewage discharge overflow Wednesday morning. 

Kevin Rivoli, The Citizen 

Auburn firefighters extinguish a fire after a city garbage truck erupted in flames on Camp Street Wednesday morning. Truck driver Justin Smith said he felt the heat from behind his seat and the truck's crew of three quickly evacuated the vehicle before the cab became fully engulfed in fire. A nearby parked car owned by Michael Cain suffered heat damage to the front end. See a photo gallery at

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Cayuga County E-911 testing backup system for call locating

AUBURN — Cayuga County's E-911 Emergency Communications Department this week began testing a backup system for pinpointing the location of calls, department Director Denise Spingler said Wednesday.

In situations where callers can't identify their location, such as domestic violence cases where the caller can't speak or similar situations, the county's E-911 phone system is able to determine where the call is being made using nearby cell towers.

Beginning this week, the department has been testing a supplementary, web-based system called RapidSOS that would locate calls with nearly as much accuracy in the event the main system goes down, Spingler told the Cayuga County Legislature's Judicial and Public Safety Committee.

When taking a call, department staff enter the relevant information into RapidSOS' web-based solution and receive a location estimate. In addition to a map visualization, the system also provides altitude, latitude and longitude and a percentage-based confidence factor.

In the example Spingler gave to legislators, the main system was able to identify the call as coming from a certain portion of the Cayuga County Public Safety Building. RapidSOS, meanwhile, provided a slightly larger radius of where the call could be, extending just being the building's parking lot.

As the system is still being developed and currently under testing, it comes with some limitations, Spingler said. It currently only works with phones using the iOS 12 or Android 4.0 operating systems, while the main system's most accurate features work with 99 percent of phones.

However, with County Administrator J. Justin Woods noting that the system comes at no cost to the county, Spingler said it was still worth using in the event the main system goes down.

"There could be that time it works that we need it," Spingler said.

Spingler also provided the committee with a brief summary of the department's 2018 activity. Department staff answered 166,144 calls last year, 4,000 higher than 2017, which Spingler said was proof that emergency responders have been getting busier and busier.

One E-911 employee, Denise Cornelius, was awarded the department's "Busy Bee Award" for the second year in a row for answering 19,000 calls in 2018, Spingler said.

Government shutdown leads to postponement of Montezuma bald eagle survey

The 2019 mid-winter bald eagle survey in the Montezuma National Wildlife Refuge has been postponed as a result of the ongoing partial government shutdown.

Four of the 14 routes used by volunteers pass through gated areas of the preserve — which is operated by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service — and are unavailable during the federal shutdown, according to an email from local volunteer coordinator David Marsh.

The U.S Army Corps of Engineers, which coordinates the annual survey of the formerly endangered species nationwide, advised volunteers that the survey would still be viable if conducted by mid-February.

While Marsh said in the email surveyors are hopeful circumstances will allow for a mid-February survey, if necessary they will plan to survey along the 10 other available routes.

Last year, the survey tracked a record 81 bald eagles, 50 of which were along the four unavailable routes, according to Marsh. According to Marsh, the Corps requires survey routes and date ranges remain the same to provide year-to-year comparability of data, meaning the current plan may just buy time in hopes a full survey may be conducted.

Marsh said a record 48 volunteers had signed up for this year's survey and apologized for the delay.

"I am grateful to everyone for their desire to assist with all aspects of the survey," Marsh said.