Message from Kevin Zak, founder of the Naugatuck River Revival Group

To: Lori Mathieu, Department of Public Health

CC: Rivers Alliance of CT

October 23, 2017

Dear Ms. Mathieu,

I am writing you regarding the Oct. 9th 5-million-gallon sewage spill into the Naugatuck River.

I believe you should be aware of the damage to the river and to the existence of much raw sewage still in a small stretch below the outfall. 

The Waterbury Observer and Naugatuck River Revival Group observed the following while walking, filming and photographing the damage within the river from the outfall in Waterbury to Union City in Naugatuck. Total ~ 1.5 to 2 miles.

I will be brief as possible to help you visualize health risks caused by this spill.

John Murray (of the Observer), Sondra Zak and I literally walked the river on Sunday 10/22/17. 

As of 10/23/17 (14 days after the spill and 4 days after the public awareness), the presence of raw sewage within this small segment of river was still overwhelming. 

Football size sewage lay on rocks. Hundreds of dead fish exist within this corridor alone. On the rocks are signs of predators attempting to eat the fish and then aborting their meal. The visuals of sewage are overwhelming and heartbreaking.

We have watched and warned fisherman attempting to fish this past Friday (almost 2 weeks after the spill) while sanitation workers from Waterbury attempted to pick up tampons and sewage in a losing battle.

The workers were armed with gloves and litter grab sticks, a few 5 gallon buckets and white kitchen plastic garbage bags. A few City employees worked from the Naugatuck Beardsley Ave pump station and headed north. While a few others worked from the Sewage Treatment Plant south. Approximately 6-8 workers in total wearing low yellow rubber boots and rubber gloves.

We have observed families attempting to go to the river to recreate. At the river’s edge along Platts Mills Road Naugatuck, we interviewed a man that brings his dog to play catch with a tennis ball thrown into the river (almost every day as he has done for over 4 years).  We learned he had been playing with his dog in the river every day after Oct 9th and was not warned. 

The river is running at record lows and this sewage is slowly working its way south to the Housatonic and Long Island Sound. It is waiting for the rain on Tuesday to give it a boost.

I am not sure why there was not yellow caution tape at various access areas to the south of the spill.  Also why was a boom not placed immediately down river where sewage could be accumulated and removed.

The river was then and still is slow enough to work a plan.  A large amount of solid waste remains just north of the Waterbury line. Who knows what flow the potential rain will cause? I understand dilution at the moment is the solution we are all praying for. However, whose problem will it be as it passes Platts Mills?

We just hosted a cleanup with Perkin-Elmer a few short weeks ago in this same area as we did for the past several years.

We (Naugatuck River Revival Group) and the public were not informed in a timely manner

A few small paper signs warning not to swim were put out but were hard to see. We took one sign that had blown off a utility pole and placed it within our river access kiosk.

Can crime tape at access points and placement of a boom below the site on the Naugatuck/Waterbury line still be accomplished?

This link will help with what I was referring to:


Kevin Zak

Naugatuck River Revival Group


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Nothing is Impossible

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 ~Yesterday a a river~

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