By JACKSON CHEN
A non-profit environmental organization has filed a notice of intent to sue Westchester County for ongoing violations of leaking sewer pipes and frequent overflows in early June.
The legal notice, filed by Save the Sound, a New Haven, Conn., and Mamaroneck-based organization that works to restore and protect the Long Island Sound, gives the county 60 days to remediate several water impairment issues the organization has noted over the years.
“For over a decade, state, county and municipal officials have failed to effectively address sewer overflows and leaking sewer pipes in Westchester County,” said Roger Reynolds, legal director of Save the Sound. “Without an action like this, we’re unlikely to see meaningful progress.”
According to Save the Sound’s notice, the county has allegedly discharged “partially treated sewage” on Dec. 9 and 10, 2014 from a sanitary sewer overflow control facility in the New Rochelle sewer district, which violates a permit the county received for the Clean Water Act.
Adding onto the alleged illegal discharge, the organization’s notice said that Westchester County has failed to enforce the County Sewer Act, which limits levels of flow from the municipalities in the New Rochelle, Mamaroneck, Blind Brook and Port Chester sanitary sewer districts.
As for their third reason, the notice of intent to sue alleges that the county also failed to implement state-mandated flow reduction requirements within the impacted municipalities. While there are only four sewer districts named in the notice, the combined facilities serve most of the lower Westchester communities, including New Rochelle, Harrison, White Plains and the Town of Mamaroneck.
“The county and the municipalities have known since at least 2003 that much more is needed to be done to fix these problems and the actions taken so far have been woefully inadequate,” Reynolds said.
When reached for comment this week, Phil Oliva, a spokesman for Republican County Executive Rob Astorino, told the Review, “We will review the documents being submitted and the other regulatory items that are pertinent to this action.”
In December 2014, the Village of Mamaroneck, which is one of the listed communities in the notice, attempted to address the overflow issues by repairing deteriorating sewer mains and conducting home inspections on illegal hookups that contribute to the overflow problem.
Further inland than Mamaroneck, the Village of Bronxville hired consultants to assist them in cleaning out and video monitoring approximately 39,000 feet of sewer main in May 2014. And higher up in the governmental hierarchy, New York recently announced a $200 million program that was created to help municipalities fund any capital projects that would improve water quality infrastructure projects as part of the 2015-2016 state budget.
Despite the effort that has been put in by the county and the individual municipalities, the sanitary sewage overflow continues and the crumbling infrastructure problem persists throughout.
According to Save the Sou-
nd’s water quality testing in 2014, several areas within the Mamaroneck Harbor and Hutchinson River showed sam-ples with failing levels of fecal contamination over a testing period of several days. The continuing issue of poor water quality and overflow issues was what led Save the Sound to present the county with legal action.
In the past, the county has been served with numerous consent orders from the state Department of Environmental Conservation, which seems to be the extent of the legal action taken to address water concerns, according to Reynolds.
However, Reynolds said those orders have not been enough and the county has had no activity in improving conditions in the last 10 years.
The DEC could not be reached for comment, as of press time.