Posted June 13, 2012

Saugerties, NY – County Executive Mike Hein visited the Esopus Creek Beach in Saugerties this morning to highlight the beauty of the lower Esopus Creek and to urge Ulster County residents and business owners to speak out at a New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (NYS DEC) public hearing on Tuesday night, June 19th. The hearing is being held to allow the public an opportunity to review and comment on the draft consent order recently issued by the NYS DEC.

The New York City Department of Environmental Protection’s (NYC DEP) ongoing releases of muddy water from the Ashokan Reservoir have caused undeniable damage to our pristine environment and have had a negative economic impact upon the local economy of Ulster County. If the NYC DEP is allowed to continue with highly turbid releases into the lower Esopus Creek further damage is inevitable and many of the benefits of the creek will not be available to Ulster County’s residents, farmers, sportsmen, tourists, or wildlife and future generations.

Ulster County Executive Mike Hein has repeatedly demanded that the NYC DEP stop polluting and that the NYS DEC fulfill its regulatory role and protect Ulster County’s environment and residents. In response, behind closed doors and without input from Ulster County’s elected leaders, residents or business owners, the DEC drafted a Consent Order with the NYC DEP which does not substantially change the actions of the NYC DEP. The draft Consent Order continues a practice that will have significant adverse impacts to the lower Esopus Creek, and permits by consent, a violation of NYS Water Quality Standards.

“The Consent Order is woefully inadequate on every level,” stated County Executive Hein. “Instead of holding NYC DEP officials accountable for polluting the lower Esopus and deterring them from ever doing it again, the relatively meager fines compared to the damage they caused proposed in the Consent Order offer the NYC DEP an inexpensive way to continue “business as usual.” This draft order also fails to provide landowners along the lower Esopus, whose property has been damaged, with any type of relief, and it fails to make the NYC DEP follow the same regulations that any other polluter would have to follow. It is essential that Ulster County’s residents attend this Public Hearing and tell NYS DEC to reject this flawed document and to revise the Consent Order to protect the people, economy and environment of Ulster County.”

According to Kate Hudson, Watershed Program Director for Riverkeeper, "this is the public’s only chance to comment on DEC’s draft Consent Order that could determine the extent of muddy discharges to the Lower Esopus Creek for decades to come. The draft Consent Order was negotiated between the DEC and New York City without the public’s input and would give the City authority to continue releasing unprecedented amounts of muddy water into the Lower Esopus for at least the next 18 months. Even more concerning, it fails to require a long-term solution to the City's polluting discharges and the ongoing environmental and community impacts resulting from them. The public’s voice is critical to make sure that DEC requires New York City to develop a better strategy."

The Public Hearing on the draft Consent Order is scheduled for

Tuesday, June 19, 2012 at 6 PM in SUNY New Paltz’s Lecture Center - Room 100.