Sewer district must recognize emergency

Letter published in The Journal News
November 17, 2006

If you want to make sure that an important job doesn’t get done, give it to an obscure public agency; make sure that its responsibilities greatly exceed its legal authority, and make sure the politicians who control it always put politics above rational planning.

This formula for disaster aptly describes the state of Louisiana’s levee boards in the years before Katrina arrived.

Most unfortunately, it also describes Ramapo’s Sewer District No. 1. Our most recent storm reminds us of the precarious state of our sewer system.

"Old Faithful," the famous manhole on South Monsey Road, once again erupted with millions of gallons of sewage flowing into the headwaters of the Saddle River, a vital part of Bergen County’s water supply.

Recently, our county Legislature approved a $94 million bond to build a sewer system in western Ramapo.

I attended the meeting where this expenditure was approved and warned the Legislature that it should examine the impact this system would have on our already overloaded sewers.

We now have a very embarrassing situation.

Our brilliant sewer authority has decided that until the new sewer treatment plant is built for western Ramapo it is going to connect the new system into the existing trunk line down to Orangeburg.

If this connection is actually built, "Old Faithful" will be working overtime.

The borough of Upper Saddle River a few weeks ago served Sewer District No. 1 with legal notice that it is ready to sue under the Federal Clean Water Act.

I expect Upper Saddle River will go to court and ask for an injunction against this connection.

Let’s stop playing politics and admit we have an emergency.

Our water and sewer systems cannot support explosive population growth in Monsey.

We cannot afford to look the other way while the illegal sump pumps in Kaser send storm water that should have drained into Lake Suzanne into our overloaded sewer system.

Robert Rhodes   
The writer is chairman of Preserve Ramapo