Lawsuit Prompts Town to Spend $36 Million on Sewer Repairs
HARRISON, NY—The Save the Sound environmental advocacy group and the Town/Village of Harrison have reached a collaborative agreement that would resolve Save the Sound’s Clean Water Act enforcement action filed in 2015 that stemmed from discharges of sewage from the municipality’s sanitary sewers due to deteriorating pipes.
The proposed agreement announced on Oct. 18 was filed by Save the Sound and Harrison with the Federal District Court for the Southern District of New York and is subject to a 45-day review period by the U.S. Department of Justice and Environmental Protection Agency. The agreement calls for Harrison to spend $36 million on sewer repairs, according to a report in the Westchester County Business Journal.
The agreement requires Harrison to repair its approximately 64 miles of wastewater collection pipe, fixing approximately 6,000 inflow- and infiltration-related defects and over 9,600 total defects. Harrison will also contribute $60,000 to the Westchester Soil and Water Conservation District for an Environmental Benefit Project that will address water quality in the Westchester Long Island Sound watershed area.
“We’re pleased that Harrison is taking this very necessary action to protect its residents’ health and Long Island Sound ecosystems,” said Roger Reynolds, chief legal counsel at Save the Sound. “The work is extensive and spread out over several years. There are firm enforceable milestones and deadlines attached, and we will be diligent in monitoring and enforcing those deadlines as we have in our previous Westchester settlements.”
In 2015, Save the Sound brought suit against Westchester County and the municipalities of Rye, Rye Brook, Harrison, Scarsdale, Larchmont, Town of Mamaroneck, Village of Mamaroneck, New Rochelle, Pelham Manor, Port Chester and White Plains. For decades, the deteriorating sewer lines that ran under the streets and lawns of these towns had been overwhelmed during rainstorms and leaking sewage into our waterways, causing low oxygen, high bacteria levels and long-term harm to Long Island Sound. Poorly maintained sewer pipes are an important reason that beaches are closed after rain, and harvesting clams or oysters in local bays and harbors is prohibited. As a result of Save the Sound’s ongoing lawsuit, the county and municipalities have been studying their systems and making repairs necessary to protect Long Island Sound.
Save the Sound has reached final resolutions with five other Westchester municipalities (Port Chester, Village of Mamaroneck, White Plains, Rye Brook and Rye), which have agreed to make necessary repairs, keep their systems in a state of good repair going forward, and perform $225,000 worth of environmental benefit projects to restore water quality in their local waterways.
The settlement with Harrison would be the sixth and would require extensive repairs, and bring the running total in Environmental Benefit Payments for the Westchester case to $285,000. Save the Sound has been active in Connecticut as well, reaching settlements this fall in its stormwater pollution lawsuits against the municipalities of Ridgefield and Redding with $140,000 going in Environmental Benefit Projects for the Norwalk River.
Importantly, Harrison has also agreed to create an “insurance” program where residents can contribute to a common fund that will be used to repair private laterals unless they opt out. Private laterals are sewage pipes that go from residents’ houses to the main town sewer line and are also in need of periodic repair and maintenance to protect water quality.
“Our legal team takes action across the region to systematically address problems facing Long Island Sound to make it safer for fishing and swimming,” said Mr. Reynolds. “The agreement with Harrison, and other recent actions in New York and Connecticut, illustrate anew how relevant and powerful the 50-year-old federal Clean Water Act continues to be in protecting our Sound, our rivers, and our people from water pollution.”