Overspills of sewage may incite legal battle

The Record
Friday, March 24, 2006

By EVONNE COUTROS
STAFF WRITER

UPPER SADDLE RIVER -- Borough officials are warning their counterparts in neighboring Airmont, N.Y., to repair sewer lines or face a lawsuit.

In a letter to the village of Airmont and the Rockland County Sewer District earlier this month, attorneys for the borough said spills have been documented over several years and the borough intends to sue for illegal and unpermitted discharges into the federally protected Saddle River. "There are ongoing sewage overspills in the village of Airmont and other places within Rockland County and the Rockland County Sewer District No. 1 seems to be unwilling to acknowledge those," borough Councilman Dennis Schubert said. "Any sewerage spill that comes into the river is a bad thing. We've asked them repeatedly to rectify the situation but they have failed to."

The borough has threatened to file the suit in federal court under the guidelines of the Clean Water Act, and has served notice of its intent on several environmental agencies.

Schubert cited areas near East Saddle River Road and South Monsey Road as locations where illegal discharges have gone unabated, primarily after rainstorms. The discharges will increase if additional development in Airmont is connected to the sewer lines, said Schubert and fellow council member Barbara Ripston.

Airmont Mayor John C. Layne said his village holds no management responsibility for the sewer system and defended Rockland County's response to any sewage issues over the years. Layne questioned the timing of the threat to sue.

"I would suspect that it was brought as a way of placing obstacles in the way of an application which is before our Planning Board for a yeshiva on Hillside Avenue, which is in the immediate vicinity of this sewer line that they are describing," Layne said.

Layne said he was unaware of any urgent matter regarding the branch of sewer line Upper Saddle River officials have singled out.

"Throughout my discussions with the Rockland County Sewer District over a decade, I have never been told or gotten the sense that there were high-volume spills of sewage along these sewer lines and at these pump stations," Layne said.

Schubert and Ripston said the threat to sue is not related to any specific development but to an eight-year-old problem that is increasing.