The latest dirty water news

Last week was a big week for effluvia-related news in the watershed.

On Friday, Mike Hein, Ulster County's chief executive, decided not to sue the New York City Department of Environmental Protection over its releases of muddy water into the Esopus Creek last year, according to the Daily Freeman.

Hein threatened to sue back in January with quite a lot of bluster. But now, the Freeman reports, Hein and other county officials feel that the DEP is finally cooperating:

County Attorney Bea Havranek said the notice was filed in January and gave the city a 60-day window in which to file the lawsuit. She said the county let the notice lapse because the mere threat of legal action got the attention of city officials and led to the problem being corrected. “As far as we’re concerned ... they are in the process of remedying” the situation, Havranek said. “At least we hope they are.”

The Freeman ran a separate story on Friday discussing why Hein and Ulster County no longer feel that a lawsuit is necessary. Essentially, the county has handed off its concerns to the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation, which is eyeing a fine on the DEP for releasing the muddy water. (We posted the intial DEC filing against the DEP in February.) 

In other news about dirty water flowing downstream, the Greene County town of Lexington has finally agreed to build a wastewater treatment plant using DEP money, according to the Windham Journal.

Lexington has waffled for years about whether to build the plant with DEP funds or to turn down the money and face possible problems with the DEP in the future. Up against a hard May 6 deadline to make a decision, the town took the money:

Town board members made the decision (by a 4 to 1 vote) in response to a deadline issued by the Catskill Watershed Corporation, administrators of a $9.1 million block grant being provided by the New York City Department of Environmental Protection for the project.

The wastewater treatment plan is going to be a new kind for the NYC watershed, the Journal reports:

As the May 6 deadline drew nearer, with hopes dwindling, town officials learned of a re-circulating textile filtration system that has been used for four years in the town of Hillsdale, in Columbia County, built for only $2.4 million while servicing almost twice as many users as needed in Lexington.

Appeals were made to DEP and the CWC in early April to switch to the textile filtration technology, which requires a much smaller treatment facility, roughly 8' by 12', as well as less land for the leach fields and about one-third of the annual Operation and Maintenance fees.

DEP gave its tentative blessing to the plan, fully contingent upon a life cycle cost analysis, wanting to see how that system compares to the recommended sand filtration system which has a dependable track record in other DEP projects.