By ASHLEY HELMS
The Jefferson Avenue Bridge project has drawn considerable criticism due to an accidental sewer line break in March. As it turns out, the break allowed 3 million gallons of raw sewage to leak into the Mamaroneck River, according to a letter to the Village of Mamaroneck from the Department of Environmental Conservation.
As a result, the village has been hit with a fine to the tune of $17,000 for the sewage leak. A payment of $12,000 will be due on Sept. 24. The other $5,000 will be suspended as long as the village commits to an Order of Consent as outlined by the DEC.
Village Manager Richard Slingerland said the village does not yet have a lawsuit or formal legal action pending against the project contractor, The Arben Group, but Village Attorney Charles Goldberger said the contractor may be responsible for part of the DEC fine that the village is required to pay.
“I expect as part of our resolutions of our claims with the contractor that this is something we will add to our claim,” Goldberger said.
The reconstruction of the bridge began in September 2012 at a projected cost of $3.5 million before the pipe was damaged this March. The damage to a 21-inch underground sewage pipe, which sits in close proximity to the river, was temporarily repaired by the installation of a generator and two pipes leading into the sewer cap over where the break occurred.
The Mamaroneck River flows into the Long Island Sound.
Taking into account the sewer break, the project costs rose to $4.2 million.
Gina Von Eiff, a resident of Jefferson Avenue, said water samples from the river were obtained and tested by volunteers from a New York City-based environmental group The River Project and levels of the Enterococcus bacteria, an organism commonly found in human intestines, were hundreds of times higher than the levels deemed healthy for human contact by the DEC. The tests did not differentiate between human and animal waste. The sampling was coordinated by village resident
Von Eiff said no one is advising children to stay away from the contaminated water and that she would like to see the village set up a monitoring system and notify the public if a situation such as this occurs again. She said the village most likely tried to skirt the issue because of the possibility of a decrease in summer income from seasonal travelers and tourists.
“Nobody is telling people to keep kids out of the water,” Von Eiff said. “I’m upset that parents are not being told so they can make the decision if they want their kids to swim or not.”
Because of the sewer break, Von Eiff said that there is a stench that lingers in the area on very hot days. When it rains, a second generator turns on to handle the extra flow of water.
“At that time, it smells like you’re living in a dump 3,000 degrees on fire,” Von Eiff said.
Village resident Stuart Tierkert said the new sewer lines have to be hooked up by Sept. 18, and further test results may show a decrease in bacteria in the river because of the repair, but time to determine the level of contamination is growing short.
“There are only five more weeks of testing during the testing year before they shut down the lab,” Tiekert said.
Tiekert said he heard the break was sealed by an inflatable plug placed where the damage occurred and pumps were installed behind the plug for sewage to be pumped out above the river.
Village Manager Slingerland said the 3 million gallons figure was estimated considering the sewage flow and size of the pipe. To repair the damage, he said a heavy-duty rubber device is usually inflated over the hole, but, because of the nature of the damage, a concrete plug was placed at the break on the river’s end and additional work was done to plug up the other side.
“That caused a complete stoppage of the leak,” Slingerland said. “Within the next week, we can put in the sewage lines.”