HUDSON VALLEY, NY – An environmental watchdog fought City Hall and won big – the result could one day mean a cleaner, less polluted Long Island Sound.
Save the Sound announced this week that the motion to dismiss filed by four cities that make up the New Rochelle Sewer District in the Save the Sound Clean Water Act enforcement case has been dismissed by a judge. The case was brought by Save the Sound and Atlantic Clam Farms of Connecticut to address chronic sewage spills in the Long Island Strait due to what the group claims are poorly maintained sewage collection systems.
On September 14, Judge Cathy Seibel, U.S. District Judge for the Southern District of New York, dismissed the cities’ motion to dismiss in its entirety and ruled the case could proceed on all the claims of Save the Sound. The municipalities named in the lawsuit include New Rochelle, Pelham Manor, the Town of Mamaroneck and Larchmont.
“We are delighted that the court agrees with what we have been saying for over six years now: poorly maintained wastewater collection systems that result in the discharge of raw and partially treated wastewater into local waters and long Island Sound violates the Clean Water Act. “Said Save the Sound President Curt Johnson.” We are pleased that successful negotiations have taken place with Westchester County and other municipalities, and look forward to resolving pollution issues with the four towns again. of the Sewerage District of New Rochelle through discussion and collaboration rather than litigation, although of course we are prepared to continue to litigate if necessary. ”
In 2015, Save the Sound and Atlantic Clam Farms filed a lawsuit against Westchester County and 11 municipalities in the Long Island Sound watershed. Save the Sound claimed cities did not adequately maintain their aging sewage systems and as a result millions of gallons of untreated and partially treated sewage was dumped and polluting in Long Island Sound and its surrounding areas. tributaries in violation of the Clean Water Act.
Untreated and partially treated sewage discharges threaten public health and aquatic life, leading to the closure of beaches and shellfish closures for a decade on the Westchester coast, according to Save the Sound.
Rather than face litigation, five municipalities have committed to study and repair over 149 linear miles of sewer lines and to put in place investment and management plans for improved future maintenance.
Settlements have been made with Port Chester, the Village of Mamaroneck, White Plains, Rye Brook and Rye. Settlement discussions are underway with Westchester County and the towns of Harrison and Scarsdale, according to the environmental group.
In 2020, however, the four municipalities that are part of the New Rochelle Sewer District withdrew from the discussions and filed a motion for a nonsuit. The cities have asked the judge to rule that Save the Sound cannot enforce the Clean Water Act regarding pollution from their sewage systems.
“Judge Seibel’s ruling establishes that cities have an absolute obligation to address the sewage pollution that reaches the rivers and coastal waters of the Strait from aging and poorly maintained sewage collection systems,” he said. said Roger Reynolds, senior legal counsel for Save the Sound. “Recent storms like Elsa, Henri and Ida demonstrate that storms are only getting worse and that cities that do not take proactive steps to maintain their wastewater collection systems are increasingly putting the health of the public at risk. and the environment.