January 12, 2011

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Ulster County threatens to sue New York City DEP

Hein, with photo county officials say clearly show the pollution
going into the Esopus Creek

KINGSTON – It has been 97 days since the New York City Department of Environmental Protection (NYCDEP) began discharging untreated highly turbid water from the west basin of the Ashokan Reservoir into the Lower Esopus Creek.   Ulster County Executive Michael Hein says that it is time to file suit against the agency for putting the economies and quality of life of every municipality along the creek in serious jeopardy.

His announcement came during a last minute news conference held Tuesday evening at the County Office Building in Kingston where he made it known to the public that, with the support of the Legislature, he has filed a Notice of Intent to sue the NYCDEP under the Clean Water Act.

Hein said there are other ways of dealing with the polluted water and that NYCDEP is approaching the issue with no mind for any result that may occur outside of the New York City watershed.

“The watershed is where they get their water from but this is a connected system and they are not going to be allowed to dump on Ulster County, and that is going on right now.”

Hein said that there has been no research done on the NYCDEP’s behalf as to the effects of their choice to discharge heavily sedimented water into the body of water that singlehandedly supports a significant amount of the agricultural and tourism economies in the area.

According to the Director of the Ulster County Department of the Environment, Amanda Lavalle, the recent discharges through the waste release channel constitute the “single most profound” change to the creek since the reservoir’s installation nearly a century ago.

Excess turbidity is a pollutant and is prohibited under the Federal Clean Water Act and New York State Regulation, she said.

“Turbidity negatively impacts aquatic ecosystems. It can harm, and potentially kill, fish and other stream life,” she said. “It impairs our ability to use the creek for recreational purposes like kayaking or fishing. It also has the potential to negatively impact agriculture and public water supplies.”

Lavalle said that since October more than a third of the total capacity of the Ashokan Reservoir has been released to the Lower Esopus.

To put things in perspective, Hein explained that if someone were to take one gallon of the same kind of water and dump it back into the reservoir, that person would be subject to fines up to $37,000. He noted that so far the NYCDEP has dumped 42 billion gallons of this water into the backyards of the people of Ulster County.


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