Department of Public Works
Division of Pure Waters

Frequently Asked Questions

The following is a list of Frequently Asked Questions - please let us know if you have a question not on this list. Thank you.

Maintaining your sewer

In the Town of Colonie, the Town is responsible for maintenance of sanitary sewer pipelines within public rights-of-way and easements including the building sewer services located within these areas. If you suspect a problem with the building sewer within the right-of-way, please contact the Pure Waters Office

Yes. A permit is required to uncover, make any connections with or opening into, use, alter or disturb any public or private building sewer or appurtenance. (A Building Sewer is exterior drainage pipe beginning at a point 30 inches in developed length of pipe beyond the exterior wall of a building and extending to the public sewer.)

No. No permit is required to clean the building sewer located on private property. However, no unauthorized person shall insert any cleaning device, snake, jet hose, rodder into a sewer controlled by the Town.

Sanitary sewer problems should be reported to the Division of Pure Waters prior to engaging the services of a plumber or drain cleaning company. Our staff are available to provide technical support and to help determine if the public sewer is functioning properly. Please see our Sewer Problems / Complaints page.


Administrative / General

No. For residential properties, sewer bills are based upon estimated wastewater generation on a per family unit basis and are included in full on the January tax bill. There is no final reading necessary for commercial properties. However, sewer bills for commercial properties are based upon actual wastewater generation as determined by domestic water consumption for two billing periods. These domestic water consumption readings are typically 12 to 18 months behind the sewer bill.

For residential properties, sewer bills are based upon estimated wastewater generation on a per family unit basis and not domestic water consumption. Since water use does not impact sewer bills for residential properties, a credit does not apply.

Please contact the Tax Department for a copy of your sewer bill.

Please see our Understanding Your Sewer Bill page first. If you still have questions, we request you contact the Pure Waters office first. We will review your bill with you and, if you believe it is in error, we will advise you of the appropriate process with the Assessor Department.

Please contact our office via e-mail or phone with the exact legal address for the property in question and we will be happy to assist you. If you are unsure of the exact legal address (which is not necessarily the mailing address), please use the Town's online mapping system www.colonie.org/gis.

Pure Waters services approximately 97% of the developed properties within the Town of Colonie. However, there are several areas that are still served by private on-site wastewater disposal (septic) systems. Please contact our office via e-mail or phone with the exact legal address for the property in question and we will be happy to assist you. If you are unsure of the exact legal address (which is not necessarily the mailing address), please use the Town's online mapping system.

Please contact our office via e-mail or phone with the exact legal address for the property in question and we will be happy to assist you. If you are unsure of the exact legal address (which is not necessarily the mailing address), please use the Town's online mapping system www.colonie.org/gis.

As a courtesy, Pure Waters reviews all Building Permit applications involving exterior construction in an attempt to identify potential conflicts with your building sewer before a Building Permit is issued and you begin work. For many older properties, we do not have records of the building sewer locations on private property and will advise you to contact us should you discover a conflict during construction.

We review hundreds of plans annually. Please allow one week for Building Permit sign-offs, two weeks for PEDD Minor site plan reviews and up to four weeks for PEDD Major site plan reviews. Questions regarding the status of a specific project should be referred to the Pure Waters Office via e-mail or phone. Please include your Case Number with your inquiry:

  • Building Permits - a 9 digit number whose first 4 digits are the calendar year in which the application was submitted
  • Planning applications – a 9 digit number starting with PL-
  • Sewer Permits – a 9 digit number starting with PW-

A permit is required to uncover, make any connections with or opening into, use, alter or disturb any public or private building sewer or appurtenance. (A Building Sewer is exterior drainage pipe beginning at a point 30 inches in developed length of pipe beyond the exterior wall of a building and extending to the public sewer.) Please see our How to Obtain a Sewer Permit page for the process.

As the operator of a utility, New York State law requires Pure Waters to identify the location of our underground pipelines upon notification of an intended excavation. We use green flags and/or green paint to indicate sanitary sewer location. It is critical that you do not disturb these markings. The excavator who requested the marking is required to remove the flags when the work is complete.

Please see DigSafelyNY for more information about utility markings. If you are not expecting an excavation and trying to find out who will be digging, please contact our Bureau of Engineering.

While most public sewers are located within Town roads, there are many instances where pipelines and manholes are located in easements in front of, alongside, or behind buildings on private property. Our staff are professional and courteous. We will attempt to contact you in advance if we need to enter your property over an easement to access the public sewer. We appreciate your cooperation and understanding as we protect public health and the environment by ensuring proper sewer operation.


Collection / Sewer Use

While public sewers and wastewater treatment plants are marvels of modern technology, they are not miracle systems! Remember to only flush the "4 Ps": poo, pee, puke and paper (and we mean toilet paper only)! It may be gross to talk about, but following this basic rule will help protect the health of our community and our environment. Please share our free graphic Don't Flush Trouble with the members of your family or with your coworkers and customers.

If you are a commercial or industrial customer inquiring about effluent permit limitations, please refer to our Sewer Use Ordinance or contact the Pure Waters Office for assistance.

NO! We are currently not aware of ANY wipes that are safe to flush, even ones whose labels say "flushable." A wipe can be labeled "flushable" if it can physically negotiate the bends in your building plumbing, but that doesn't mean it should be flushed. Wipes do not break apart quickly enough or thoroughly enough to not cause blockages in your sewer pipe. And even if they do make it to the wastewater plant, they cannot be treated by our biological processes. They are physically collected and then disposed of in the landfill, just at a much higher cost than if you just put them in the trash can in the first place! Those higher costs mean higher sewer rates on your tax bill. Don't Flush Trouble!

No. The Town of Colonie public sanitary sewer system is a 100% separate system meaning that uncontaminated water (from sump pumps / footing drains, whole house humidifier drains, etc.) is conveyed in a separate set of pipes from the sanitary sewer (contaminated water from toilets, sinks, kitchens, commercial and industrial sources). Sanitary sewers lead to a wastewater treatment plant; storm sewers discharge directly into the environment. Discharging uncontaminated water into the Town's separated sanitary sewer system is a violation and causes overflows, basement backups, and higher sewer rates by overloading our system. There are no "grandfather" provisions for these types of illegal connections and all must be removed.

Please contact the Pure Waters Office to schedule an appointment with our staff to obtain access to public sewer manholes and pumping stations. It is a violation to open a manhole cover or access a pumping station without authorization.

All commercial operations which have the potential to discharge fats, oils, or greases are required, at the owner's expense, to install, inspect, clean, and maintain grease tanks (aka oil/water separators). We encourage potential food or automotive service businesses to contact the Pure Waters Office before making any commitments to occupy a building or tenant space. In almost all instances, any business involving on-site food preparation will be required to have separate grease lines discharging through an exterior oil/water separator system.

Grease tanks shall be inspected, cleaned, and repaired regularly, as needed, by the owner, at the owner's expense.

The introduction of enzymes, bacteria, surfactants, emulsifiers or any product, natural or otherwise, into grease or oil collecting building sewers or interceptors for the purpose of decreasing maintenance of such systems is prohibited without written approval from Pure Waters.


Treatment

Yes! Our staff are proud of the work we do to protect public health and the environment. We enjoy sharing our passion for clean water with our customers. Please contact the Pure Waters Office to discuss options for facility tours.

Notice

We are unable to provide tours at this time due to social distancing concerns. Please contact us after social distancing restrictions have been lifted to discuss tour opportunities.


Contact

(518) 783-2766, ext. 4
OFF-HOURS / EMERGENCY: (518) 783-2744
(POLICE DEPARTMENT)
Public Operations Center
First Floor
347 Old Niskayuna Road
Latham, NY 12110-2286