Upper Saddle River Sues Over Pollution

The Record   Saturday, January 13, 2007


UPPER SADDLE RIVER -- The borough has followed through on its threat to sue neighboring Airmont, N.Y., and its sewer district, alleging they violated the federal Clean Water Act by spilling raw sewage into the Saddle River.

"There's no doubt that sewage continues to come down the Saddle River from Airmont," declared Councilman Dennis Schubert. "Under the federal Clean Water Act, you're not allowed to pollute navigable waterways. This river is used in Upper Saddle River for a fishing derby every spring, river walks, and ecology education. We're not going to turn this from the Saddle River to the Sewer River."

In October the borough placed Airmont and the Rockland County Sewer District No. 1 on notice of its intent to file a federal suit, accusing both of illegal and continuous discharges into the river.

Upper Saddle River officials cited at least 2.5 million gallons of raw sewage spilled into the Saddle River from a manhole in Airmont between Aug. 23 and Sept. 3.

Dianne Philipps, executive director of the sewer district, would not comment on the suit.

"We are evaluating and not in any position to respond," Philipps said.

Airmont Mayor John Layne said he was unaware the suit had been filed.

"I'm puzzled as to why Airmont was named in the letter of intent or why it is named in this," Layne said. "The village of Airmont has no control or jurisdiction over the systems whatsoever."

The suit, filed in U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York, states that the quality of the Saddle River, which flows through Airmont and Upper Saddle River and surrounding areas, directly affects the health, recreational, commercial and environmental interests of Upper Saddle River residents.

The sewer district maintained in a past report that the spillage was only on two days in August and was due to a cinder block that had been dumped into a manhole and clogged a 12-inch diameter line.

Upper Saddle River officials maintain the sewage spills lasted longer, and they want an upgrade to the sewer system.

E-mail: coutros@northjersey.com