Save the Sound v. Westchester County, et. al.

Location: Town of Mamaroneck, Pelham, Larchmont, and New Rochelle, New York and Westchester County | Status: Litigation

Location: Port Chester, Village of Mamaroneck, White Plains, Rye Brook, Rye, Harrison, and Scarsdale, New York | Status: Settled

Summary: For decades the sewer lines that run under our streets and lawns had been leaking raw sewage into our waterways, causing low oxygen, high bacteria levels, and long-term harm to the Sound. Many residents of Westchester County didn’t realize that poorly maintained sewer pipes are a main reason that beaches are closed after rain, and harvesting clams or oysters in local bays and harbors is prohibited. However, the county and the municipalities were aware of this ongoing pollution and had known since at least 2003 that actions they’d been taking were woefully inadequate to solve the problem.

That’s why, in 2015, Save the Sound sued those municipalities and Westchester County for Clean Water Act violations. The suit included Westchester County and the municipalities of Rye, Rye Brook, Harrison, Scarsdale, Larchmont, Town of Mamaroneck, Village of Mamaroneck, New Rochelle, Pelham Manor, Port Chester, and White Plains.

As a result of Save the Sound’s ongoing lawsuit, the towns and county have been studying their systems and making repairs. We have now reached final resolutions with 7 municipalities (Port Chester, Village of Mamaroneck, White Plains, Rye Brook, Rye, Harrison, and Scarsdale), which have agreed to make necessary repairs, keep their systems in a state of good repair going forward, and perform $285,000 worth of environmental benefit projects to restore water quality in their local waterways.

Unfortunately, four of the towns (New Rochelle, Town of Mamaroneck, Pelham Manor, and Larchmont) while proceeding to make repairs, have chosen to litigate rather than work with us toward a collaborative resolution. They filed a motion to dismiss and on September 16, 2021, Judge Cathy Seibel, denied the motion to dismiss and ruled the case could go forward. Unfortunately, they are continuing to litigate rather than come to the table.

Repairs that have taken place so far are the following:

Town Miles of Pipe Repaired or To Be Repaired Defects Repaired or To Be Repaired Status and Next Steps Environmental Mitigation Projects and Repair Schedules
       
Westchester County N/A N/A We are in active settlement discussions with the county, but a resolution will depend upon, and therefore must await, various municipal discussions and resolutions. Still in negotiation
Town/Village of Harrison 64 9,600 Settlement entered by the court November 2022.$60,000 Environmental Benefit Payment to the Westchester Soil and Water Conservation District for projects to remediate water pollution and improve water quality in the Westchester County Long Island Sound watershed. Repairs are ongoing and are expected to cost around $35 million and are scheduled to be completed by 2032 with annual and semi-annual milestones along the way.
Village of Larchmont 20 4,000   See City of New Rochelle.See City of New Rochelle.
Town of Mamaroneck 35 640 See City of New Rochelle.See City of New Rochelle.
City of New Rochelle 110 18,000 On Sept. 14, 2021 court denied the motion to dismiss filed by New Rochelle, Town of Mamaroneck, Larchmont, and Pelham Manor. Unfortunately, the four towns have continued to resist collaborative settlements like the seven other towns and have chosen to litigate. The case is on track to go to trial by late 2024. The next case management conference with the court is November 9, 2023.The first round of repairs is complete and we are awaiting flow monitoring results to measure success. As noted in the previous column, litigation is proceeding.
Village of Pelham Manor 12 360 See City of New Rochelle.See City of New Rochelle.
Village of Port Chester 45 N/A Port Chester completed repairs required by their Amended Consent Order, but flow monitoring failed to demonstrate compliance with the County Sewer Act. The Court entered the revised consent order as to Port Chester on April 27, 2020. Although Port Chester has achieved the other requirements of the consent order, Port Chester has failed to meet the requirements to comply with the County Sewer Act (the final condition of ending its consent order here).Last quarter, the Village Board adopted a $35 million bond resolution intended to pay for additional sanitary sewer improvements over the next five years and provided Save the Sound with a copy of its five-year plan. We are in talks with Port Chester to finalize this plan and schedule.
City of Rye 53.5 5,249 Amended Consent Order lodged with the court on June 20, 2023. Rye had fallen behind on repairs agreed to in the first Consent Order that was filed February 24, 2021.A total of $300,000 Environmental Benefit Payments in the two consent orders for use on projects to benefit water quality including bioretention basins to treat stormwater pollution entering Blind Brook. All work on the sewer system is required to be completed by December 2024.
Village of Rye Brook 25 200 Consent Decree entered in January 2021. The village has completed repairs to its sewer system in a timely manner, though it has not yet demonstrated compliance with the County Sewer Act, and discussions are ongoing regarding next steps.Rye Brook has plans for further repairs in place, which we believe are likely to improve compliance with the County Sewer Act. Rye Brook’s next status report is expected in September 2023.
Village of Scarsdale 82 755 On June 15, 2023, the parties lodged a Consent Decree with the court. Scarsdale is to complete all work by June 30 2023.$150,000 Environmental Benefit Payment for use on projects to benefit water quality in the Long Island Sound Sound watershed including a bioretention basin to treat stormwater pollution. Scarsdale must provide a report certifying completion of all work by July 31, 2023.
City of White Plains 26 200 The Court entered the Amended Consent Order as to the City of White Plains on May 3, 2021, requiring repairs to be completed by March 31, 2022 and flow limits in County Sewer Act by September 21, 2022. On December 27, 2022, we raised certain compliance concerns and requested additional information. On February 15, 2023, White Plains delivered a supplemental report and agreed to perform an additional 11-week round of flow monitoring this Spring. The results are expected in mid-to-late July, and the parties have agreed to review, then meet and confer in August.$9,000 Environmental Benefit Payment to Bronx River Alliance to stabilize and provide a canopy to address erosion on the east bank of Muskrat Cove. We are scheduled to confer about remaining compliance issues in August 2023.
 Total 472.5 39,004  

Latest step: Settled with all municipalities other than New Rochelle, Town of Mamaroneck, Village of Larchmont and Pelham Manor.

Next step: We are proceeding to litigation with the four towns mentioned above and trial is likely in 2024. We remain in talks with the County.

Further reading:

Action Opportunities:

Last Updated: October 30, 2023.


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