On the Esopus, no love for that dirty water

The Daily Freeman's William Kemble reports that officials from towns along the muddy banks of the lower Esopus are meeting with the state DEC today, to hammer out talking points for another meeting to be held Friday with the New York City DEP.

The topic? New York City's releases of massive amounts of silty water from the Ashokan Reservoir into the Esopus.

Among the affects has that pale red mud becomes caked on docks, trees and rocks all the way to the Saugerties Lighthouse, where a plume can be seen flowing halfway into the Hudson River, with currents going both north and south. Among people upset over the release is Ulster town Councilman John Morrow, who earlier this month noted that private property owners would have faced heavy fines for offenses that pale in comparison.

“Every contractor and their brother anywhere near the creek has to put up a slit fence,” Morrow said. “They have to do this, that and the other thing and if there is even a little silt going into the creek the state (Department of Environmental Conservation) is all over us.”

The issue has been hot all along the lower Esopus since October, when the DEP released 4.4 billion gallons of silty water into the river.

Update, 1:30pm: The DEP's Michael Saucier responds via email:

Neither the reservoir nor the waste channel causes turbidity; in fact, the reservoir reduces it. The Esopus Creek becomes naturally turbid due to clay deposits. This would be seen in the entire creek if not for the reservoir, which actually helps reduce turbidity levels in lower Esopus by acting as a buffer between the upper and lower sections of the creek. However, when turbidity reaches a certain level, DEP activates the waste channel, which releases some of the turbid water into the lower Esopus. The maximum turbidity of the water we release from the waste channel is many multiples below the maximum turbidity in the upper Esopus during storms, due to the mixing and settling that occurs in the Ashokan Reservoir. Reducing levels of turbidity is enormously important. Turbidity interferes with the treatment of water and degrades water quality, a potentially direct health impact on nine million New Yorkers. This being said, we are happy to have a discussion on how we can be more helpful. In fact, we have a meeting this Friday with stakeholders to discuss this very issue.