Worries about sewers

By David J. Snider
(Original Publication: February 24, 2006)

News that the Rockland sewer district is going to reroute the force main from the Twin Lakes Pump Station to a manhole further to the east in order to relieve overflow pressure at trunk sewer manhole 10019 on South Monsey Road is certainly welcomed by all in Airmont/Ramapo, as are changes to the siphon that exists 800 feet east of South Monsey, which will also help eliminate overflows at the manhole.

If these proposals are part of an overall plan to expand the capacity and useful life of the trunk sewer from South Monsey to the Orangeburg treatment plant to serve the ever-burgeoning population of Airmont/Ramapo and Rockland for another 50-75 years, it's responsible planning. After seeing the way Ramapo and Clarkstown are addressing their sewer problems, I feel that the county trunk sewer will be the weakest link in the chain at this point.

If, however, the above fixes are just a temporary effort in order to procrastinate spending the millions of dollars that it will take to completely renovate the trunk sewer between South Monsey Road and Orangeburg, it would be false economy. The longer the 40-plus-year-old trunk sewer is left to deteriorate due to overcapacity from population growth or storm water infiltration, the potential for more dire emergencies exists.

I think it would be appropriate for Ramapo Supervisor Christopher St. Lawrence, county sewer district Executive Director Dianne T. Philipps and the other members of the district to sit down with Ron Delo. He has a project under way in Orangeburg to correct the neglected sewer problems in that Orangetown and would have first-hand knowledge to advise them on how to attack the long-range problems of the trunk sewer.

It seems to me that if the trunk sewer were to receive a rehabilitation to fix it for the next 50-75 years starting today rather than 5-10 years from now, it would result in: A) less cost overall as things seem to get ever-more expensive; B) less exposure of the watershed and population along the trunk to ever-increasing health hazards and pollution due to overflows of longer duration and increasing frequency; C) less chance of a truly ecological disaster happening along the line due to procrastination or the inability to get the project studies thoroughly designed for the next 50-75 years, funded, etc.

It might mean 10-15 years to do it right. Do we have that kind of time?

I certainly hope so.