RIVERKEEPER AND ULSTER COUNTY JOIN FORCES TO PROTECT THE LOWER ESOPUS AND ITS COMMUNITIES

Posted December 16, 2011

Petition DEC to take action against DEP’s unpermitted turbid releases

into Lower Esopus Creek

Kingston. NY- In a joint petition submitted today,UlsterCountyand Riverkeeper took steps to require the New York City Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) to obtain a permit that would limit the release of turbid water into the Lower Esopus Creek from the Ashokan Reservoir.  The petition calls for the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) to initiate a permitting process that will bring the releases to theLower Esopusunder the DEC’s regulatory purview.  The DEP is currently violatingNew YorkStatewater quality standards by continuing to discharge large quantities of turbid, polluted water through the Ashokan Reservoir Waste Channel.  “As part of our continuing efforts to fight this longstanding injustice, we have moved, in conjunction with Riverkeeper, to protectUlsterCountyresidents, businesses and our pristine environment,” said Ulster County Executive Mike Hein. “The people ofUlsterCountyhave been patient in waiting for the New York City DEP to provide a better choice than mud or flood.  It is important that the environmental review and permit process that has been ignored by the DEP take place immediately.” President and Hudson Riverkeeper Paul Gallay said, “For over ten years, Riverkeeper and our partner organizations have been fighting for the Esopus and the people who use it and live near it, and we are dedicated to making sure that theLower Esopusis restored to the renowned trout stream and vital resource it once was.  Making sure the people in this community are appropriately compensated for the damages they’ve incurred from these discharges is also our top priority.” TheCountyExecutiveand Riverkeeper will work to ensure that any DEC permitting process and decision guarantee the following:

  • A transparent and public process for future DEP actions;
  • The lowering of water levels in the Ashokan Reservoir to reduce the magnitude of flooding in theLower Esopus;
  • A complete analysis of alternatives to highly turbid water releases;
  • Regulatory assurance that DEP’s releases through the Waste Channel adhere to state standards;
  • Releases timed to support recreational use of theLower Esopusfor communities and landowners; and
  • Just compensation for economic and property impacts that have resulted from past releases.

  Background In January of 2010,in response to citizen outcry against DEP’s unauthorized release of large quantities of extremely turbid water from the Ashokan Reservoir to the Lower Esopus Creek for a period of almost four months, the Ulster County Executive filed a notice of intent to sue DEP under the Clean Water Act.  In response, DEP pledged to work with a broad group of stakeholders to facilitate “a frank dialogue, and exchange of ideas and information to inform operational decisions,” to take steps to prevent turbid releases in the future, and to assess the impacts of the releases and address them. In spite of these commitments, DEC initiated an enforcement action against DEP for its failure to comply with permit conditions that had required the agency to develop a program to reduce turbidity in the Catskill Watershed with the goal of protecting the water supply, fishery and recreational uses in theAshokanReservoirBasin.  DEP’s permit required it to submit reports evaluating structural and non-structural measures to reduce turbidity and recommending alternatives.  DEP never submitted these reports, in violation of its permit, and instead chose to reduce turbidity in the system by diverting turbid water through the Ashokan Reservoir Waste Channel with no authority or approval from DEC.  Eleven months later, none of DEP’s commitments have been honored or DEC’s enforcement objectives accomplished.  In addition, an independent damage assessment, which DEP also agreed to, is not being conducted, and claims for compensation from affected property owners impacted by 2010 – 2011 releases are being denied for not having been made within the 90-day period required by the City.