Rockland sewer system needs more monitoring

Community View By PETER STRASSER
(Journal News April 27, 2007)


I appreciate Christopher St. Lawrence and the Rockland County Sewer District No. 1 for holding its second sewer symposium on April 19. It was a learning experience. My wife and I wanted to attend because we are private homeowners and have witnessed many sewage spills adjacent to our property over the years with disturbingly more frequency. I live on Hillside Avenue in Monsey and these spills occur most often on the service road adjacent to the Saddle River Swim and Tennis Club. Typically these flow directly into the East Saddle River.

The question was raised to St. Lawrence at the symposium about how many sewer spills occurred in this most recent rain event. His answer was there were only four in Airmont, of which I reported two adjacent to my property. I then asked St. Lawrence, if there are 17,000 manhole covers in Sewer District #1 (which I learned at this symposium) and the only four reported sewer spills in Airmont were the ones that private citizens reported, what happens to all the sewer spills that are not reported? His answer was the old philosophical question: If a tree falls in the woods and no one is around to hear it, does it make a noise?"

I find this a poor answer, from a public official, to my question.

Just for a moment, if you imagine it to be oil being piped through the sewer lines instead of raw sewage, you would want to know if there was a leak anywhere in the system, reported or unreported because you were losing money. You would make it your business to know all unreported leakage in the system as quickly as possible.

An unreported sewage spill is even more devastating to the environment then one that is reported and cleaned up.

I assume this technology is out there if not at least to install some form of flow monitors.

I find it an extreme stretch of the imagination that the only four spills that occurred in Airmont were the ones that were reported by private homeowners.

I would like any sewage personnel or other private citizen to be vigilant and speak out if you do witness a sewer spill. Apparently this is the only way Sewer District # 1 is able to respond to a spill.

One last item, the sewer symposium said there were three reasons for sewer spills. None of these were because of overdevelopment and an aging and undersize sewer lines. This is the big elephant in the sewer symposium room that was not thoroughly explored.

I suggest that the third sewer symposium is dedicated to these issues and how the current sewer commissioners are going to deal with this huge, growing fiasco.

The writer is a Monsey resident.