This is not a solution to the problem!

No, it's not snow. This is how a more recent overflow (April 4 of this year) was handled. Sewage contains bacteria of several varieties, viruses, and other nasty threats to health, so the ground covering here is lime and was spread by municipal workers who showed up in three trucks. Same location, South Monsey Road, same problem, same third-world solution as in past overflows.

You can't just lime the road and both sides into the woods and yards after the area has been washed down with contagious agents, and then say you have solved the problem. You are just inviting a disaster somewhere down the line.

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The Problem in a Nutshell

When the sewer system became operational in Rockland in 1967,there were about 59,000 people living here. Estimates made then expected that a maximum capacity for the system could accommodate a population of 153,000, and they expected to reach that maximum somewhere around 1980.There are now 300,000 people in Rockland and growth has become unmanageable with developers, planners and politicians in a seeming race with each other.

The waste management workers will tell you they donít have data that supports any real problem, and some of that is due to the fact that the flow sensors in the system stopped operating in 1999 due to a computer glitch that all the rest of us somehow managed to survive. No data does not mean there's no problem. Even if I break my watch, I somehow know that that's going to have little impact on tomorrow arriving.

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Robert Rhodes' Community View piece in the Sunday Journal News explains how we got into this mess and how St. Lawrence and his Board is keeping us mired in it. Read Ramapo sewer woes.

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Airmont Sewage Pollutes the Saddle River

David Gates, Airmont (March 28, 2005)

Sewer System Nomenclature

Lateral: A gravity sewer that receives the sewage from buildings. It typically varies from 12 to 18 inches in diameter.

Interceptor: A gravity sewer that receives, or intercepts, the sewage from the laterals. It typically varies from 12 to 18 inches in diameter.

Trunk: A gravity sewer that receives the sewage from the interceptors and nearby laterals and carries it to the treatment plant. It typically varies from 24 to 60 inches in diameter.

Pumping Station and Force Main: All elements of the sewer system require gravity flow, which means that an interceptorís lower end may be below the elevation of the trunk sewer. In that event, a pumping station is required to pump the sewage to the trunk sewer via a force main that is usually the same diameter as the interceptor.

Airmontís Sewer System

Because the Ramapo Trunk Sewer (which runs east from the South Monsey Road/Christmas Hill Road intersection through Monsey and Spring Valley before heading south) is at a higher elevation than much of Airmont, pumping stations and force mains are required for Airmontís two interceptors:

The Cherry Lane interceptor starts at Route 59 and runs south to the New Jersey border, where the sewage is pumped north on Cherry Lane and then east on Christmas Hill Road to the Ramapo trunk sewer at South Monsey Road.

The Saddle River Road interceptor starts about 2,000 feet south of Route 59 and runs south to the New Jersey border, where the sewage is pumped north on Saddle River Road and then approximately northwest on South Monsey Road, also to the Ramapo trunk sewer at Christmas Hill Road.

Rocklandís sever system became operational in 1967, at which time the Rockland County Sewer Agency made the following statement in an information booklet:

"There are presently 58,331 people living in the proposed district (Rockland County). This population is expected to reach a saturation of 153,793 in 1980, according to our County Planning Department. The trunk sewer is designed to serve the maximum expected capacity of this area."

Not only did Rockland County not stop growing in 1980, it began to grow at an explosive rate, especially in the Town of Ramapo, where the rate of growth for the decade ending in 2000 was 16%, and is anticipated to reach 30% by the end of this decade.

The effect on our 1980-size sewer system can already be seen. When rainfall exceed 2 inches, the 48-inch Ramapo trunk sewer becomes overloaded, and the sewage from the Cherry Lane and Saddle River Road 12-inch force mains overflows onto the roadway and nearby properties at the connection with the trunk sewer near the intersection of Christmas Hill and South Monsey Roads. Most of this sewage flows down a stream that parallels South Monsey Road and enters the east branch of the Saddle River. Such overflows occurred eight times before 2000, but in recent years, they have become more frequent, with three occurring in December of 2003, one in September of 2004, and again in April of 2005.

The major reason that heavy rainfall affects the sealed sanitary sewers is that many residents illegally connect their sump pumps to the sanitary sewer instead of to an outside surface drain. But while this is a bad thing to do, it does serve to alert us to the fact that our sewer system is operating at maximum capacity, and that any development that exceeds the density prescribed by our long-established zoning code cannot be accommodated. This includes the 200-student yeshiva proposed for South MonseyRoad (at the overflow location), as well as the proposed project on Hillside Avenue involving a yeshiva and dormitory for 170 unmarried students, housing units for 30 married students and their families, and a rabbiís house.

The Larger Problem

The Airmont sewer system may be approaching its maximum capacity, but it is still adequate for current demands. The real problem is the Ramapo trunk sewer, which is already seriously overburdened. And because of the collusion between the Town of Ramapo Politicians and developers, unincorporated Ramapo (the non-village ares) is beginning to experience explosive and uncontrollable growth, which will soon result in a complete breakdown of the sewer system for all of western Rockland County. When that happens, Airmontís sewage will have only one place to goóthe Saddle River.

In November of 2004, I was told by Joseph La Fiandra, an engineer for the Rockland County Sewer District, that Airmontís pumping stations were operating below maximum capacity and had never experienced any unusual problems. It was not until I was contacted recently by David Snider, a retired land surveyor who resides near the overflow site on South Monsey Road, that I learned of the situation described above. Mr. Snider, a resident of 39 years, has documented every overflow with dates and photographs. He has also observed the flow of sewage into the Saddle River, the spreading of quicklime by sewer district workers to reduce odors and pathogens, and roadway work needed to repair the damage caused by the powerful gushing of sewage from the two 12-inch force mains. Mr. Snider submitted his documentation to Mayor John Layne of Airmont in February 2004, but no action was taken, nor was the information shared with the board of trustees.