Ulster County readies for hearings on problems from New York City reservoir system
KINGSTON, N.Y. — Hearings are expected to begin in about six weeks on problems experienced in Ulster County due to alleged New York City Department of Environmental Protection mishandling of it water system.
County Legislature Chairwoman Terry Bernardo last week said papers from the county attorney have been submitted for a legal review needed to prepared questions.
“We just got the papers ... so it will take a while to come up with a strategy and a plan and invite the people in that we want to testify,” she said.
Bernardo, R-Accord, said the hearings are expected to include information about problems in Wawarsing related to leaks in the Delaware Aqueduct. Those leaks, which reports have put as being between 10 million and 45 million gallons per day, were found by the U.S. Geological Survey to be contributing to a rising water table that has flooded homes.
City officials have agreed to contribute $3.7 million to a Wawarsing buyout fund but have declined to admit the leaks are responsible for the flooding.
The other primary issue will be trying to learn how city officials decided to use the 32-mile long lower Esopus Creek as a waste channel to rid the reservoir of turbidity without getting approval from the state Department of Environmental Conservation. City officials between October 2010 and February 2011 dumped up to 600 million gallons per day of muddy water, with state officials during the period admitting they informally allowed the process while also planning to fine the city $2.6 million for the action.
City officials are still challenging the fine while a so-called interim permit was issued for similar releases between October 2011 and February 2012. They contend releases into the lower Esopus Creek were legal and needed to prevent turbid water from entering the Catskill Aqueduct because state officials would no longer allow the use of chemical treatment.
Bernardo said the city appears to have the same attitude about its relationship to Ulster County as cigarette companies have to their customers.
“What that (tobacco) lawsuit had in common with the DEP is for years the tobacco companies sat in front of Congress and said ‘nope, tobacco’s not addicting,’” she said. “Well, the DEP will sit in front of us and say ‘nope, we’re not flooding the homes. There’s nothing else we can do to stop (lower Esopus Creek) brown water.’”
City officials were not immediately available for comment Friday, but city spokesman Farrell Sklerov last month said requests to provide testimony would be given “due consideration.” Continued...
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