County Executive Hein Outraged Over DEP Refusal to Cease Waste Releases Into Lower Esopus
Kingston, NY-- Ulster County Executive Mike Hein filed of a Notice of Intent to sue under the Clean Water Act and is in the process of filing an accompanying Notice of Claim with New York City’s Department of Environmental Protection (NYCDEP). The action seeks to enjoin activity associated with operating the Ashokan Reservoir Waste Channel including unpermitted releases of excessively turbid water into the Lower Esopus Creek.
The Notice of Intent is a pre-requisite to filing an action under the Clean Water Act which Ulster County and the other plaintiff municipalities believe is being violated.
"It is my great hope that NYCDEP will cease their assault upon the quality of life, economic prosperity and environmental quality of Ulster County," said County Executive Mike Hein. "They are showing a blatant disregard for the health and welfare of our residents and the Lower Esopus environment. They need to stop the discharges immediately and make things right. If they are unwilling to cease their actions, the County is prepared to take immediate action and sue the NYCDEP. We will use every resource at our disposal to protect natural resources, property and the economic prosperity of our community."
"In order to address water quality issues down stream of the Catskills, NYCDEP has chosen to discharge highly turbid from the west basin of the Ashokan Reservoir without treatment to the Lower Esopus Creek, rather than taking the more environmentally responsive route of undergoing a full environmental review and permitting for these activities," said the Director of the Ulster County Department of Environment Amanda Lavalle. "Had the City conducted a proper and full environmental review before commencing these discharges, they would have been forced to identify the horrendous impacts from these discharges and taken measures to mitigate those impact Although releases through the waste channel have been couched as flood control relief for downstream residents, the real purpose of these releases is to avoid treatment requirements for New York City drinking water."
County Legislative Majority Leader Paul Hansut said, "The double standard demonstrated by NYCDEP is simply not acceptable. They should be held to the same environmental standards as the rest of the residents of New York State."
County Legislative Minority Leader Jeanette Provenzano said, "Providing clean water for the greater metropolitan region is undeniably an important goal. However we feel that the NYCDEP has both the ability and the responsibility to be a good partner and protect the streams impacted by their water supply operations. We are simply asking them to step up to that responsibility. I applaud the County Executive for taking the lead on this issue."
"I want to thank County Executive Hein for taking the lead on this issue and protecting the citizens of Ulster County. Together we will fight the unfair and detrimental environmental practices of the NYCDEP," said County Legislator Alan Lomita
Ulster County Legislator Walter Frey said "NYCDEP’s recent polluting of the Lower Esopus is inexcusable and unconscionable. Their title as the Department of the Environmental Protection reminds me of Orwell’s version of ‘double speak’ in
Ulster County Legislator Jim Maloney said "As head of the Legislature’s standing committee on Economic Development, I am very concerned of the potential impact the NYCDEP’s waste releases have will have on farming and tourism can be devastating. It will kill our economy"
Ulster County Legislator Roy Hochberg said "Our quality of life in Ulster County is unrivaled but the NYCDEP has threatened that quality of life by releasing polluted waste water into the Lower Esopus. The Lower Esopus is a key area to agriculture and recreation and must be protected"
County Executive Hein is also being supported by the strong environmental community in the Hudson Valley.
Hudson River keeper Paul Gallay said "The condition of the lower Esopus in recent months is simply unacceptable. We are a part of NYCDEP’s newly established stakeholder group which is meeting again on January 14th. The City has got to announce measures to remedy the current problems and avoid future ones. Operating the water supply system cannot come at the expense of local residents and the environment."
New York City DEP’s waste water releases will have a negative impact on farming and tourism, two of Ulster County’s top industries. The loss of economic growth in these two sectors has the potential to devastate the Ulster County economy.
"I have been farming the lands along the Esopus for 25 years and I have never seen the level of mud and sediment that the NYCDEP has released over the past 97 days," said Bruce Davenport, owner of Davenport Farms in Stone Ridge." Good Ag. Practices (GAP) is a program adopted nation-wide by supermarkets. The goal is to protect the quality of the food supermarkets sell. Having to irrigate with turbid water could
disqualify our produce from being purchased by these major supermarkets. When spring comes we are going to be asking ourselves if we are going to be able to remain in the produce business."
The damages that have been reported to the County associated with high level of polluted turbid releases include fish kills, well failure, loss of swimming, loss of boating, damage to invertebrates, failure of agricultural irrigation systems, damage to property values and aesthetic impacts.
The NYCDEP has been releasing highly turbid polluted water from the West Ashokan Basin, down a waste channel into the Lower Esopus since October 7, 2010. This action, intended to purge the reservoir of the polluted water, has continued for 97 days. It is Ulster County’s demand to have clear water released into the Esopus immediately.
The NYCDEP has released over 42 billion gallons of polluted water into the Lower Esopus since October 8th 2010. In the city’s own watershed, if a private party releases a gallon of water in similar condition he or she would be fined up to $37,500 per day.
"The gross hypocrisy of NYCDEP is truly astounding," continued County Executive Hein. They implement severe environmental restrictions in the watershed whenever possible, yet when dealing with Ulster County residents outside of the watershed they don’t follow their own rules. This ‘let them eat cake’ approach to governance is simply not acceptable and cannot stand."