HOLYOKE, Mass. (WWLP) – The City of Holyoke’s Department of Public Works is warning residents to avoid water contact due to combined sewer overflow discharges.

Residents of Holyoke are asked to stay clear of the river due to Thursday night’s soaking rains, Why? The city’s sewer overflow has been released into the river. According to a project manager at Veolia, the company that partners with Holyoke to handle waste water services, discharging into the river after a storm event prevents sewer backup and street flooding.

Discharging sewage overflow into the river is a standard occurrence and it’s done by many communities. It’s only since July 6th that the public has to be informed.

Quinn Lonczak, Project Supervisor of Chicopee Water Pollution Control, illustrates that the overflow is due to old piping. Right now there is just one pipe that handles both waste water and storm water, it’s called a combined sewer.

“For old industrial communities like Chicopee, Holyoke and Springfield. Combined sewers were the way things where built,” said Lonczak.

Chicopee, Holyoke and other communities with combined sewer are working toward modernizing with a system that would keep waste water separate from storm water. A newer system would eliminate the need to discharge into the river.

“That is the ultimate goal, to get to zero gallons of discharge a year,” said Lonczak.

Updating the system is an incredibly costly undertaking. Chicopee has been working on updates for 15 years has spent $212 million solely funded by sewer fees.

These discharges do have an effect on the quality of the river, people are asked to steer clear to avoid getting ill from pathogens such as e. coli and salmonella.