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

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

Location: Port Chester, Village of Mamaroneck, White Plains, Rye Brook, Rye, and Harrison, 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 6 municipalities (Port Chester, Village of Mamaroneck, White Plains, Rye Brook, Rye, and Harrison), 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.

Four of the towns (New Rochelle, Town of Mamaroneck, Pelham Manor, and Larchmont) proceeded to make repairs but refused to work with us toward a collaborative settlement to ensure all the problems were addressed going forward. They filed a motion and a brief arguing their actions did not violate the Clean Water Act and our case should be dismissed. On September 16, 2021, Judge Cathy Seibel, sitting in the Federal District Court for the Southern District of New York, ruled that we had stated a valid claim under the Clean Water Act and the case could go forward. Save the Sound’s president, Curt Johnson, stated, “We are gratified that the court agreed with what we have been saying for over six years now: poorly maintained sewage collection systems that result in discharge of raw and partially treated sewage to local waters and Long Island Sound violate the Clean Water Act—period. We’re glad that successful negotiations have proceeded with Westchester County and other municipalities, and are hopeful that we can return to resolving the pollution issues with the four towns of the New Rochelle Sewer District through discussion and collaboration rather than litigation, though we are, of course, prepared to continue to litigate if necessary.” Since the motion to dismiss, we have re-entered into collaborative negotiations with these towns.

Our most recent settlement, reached in October 2022 with Harrison in the form of a court ordered consent decree, requires the town/village to: repair its approximately 64 miles of wastewater collection pipe, fixing approximately 6,000 inflow- and infiltration-related defects and over 9,600 total defects; and contribute $60,000 to the Westchester Soil and Water Conservation District for an Environmental Benefit Project that will address water quality in the Westchester Long Island Sound watershed area. Harrison will also create a program to help residents fund repairs to private laterals.

Finally, we are continuing negotiations with Scarsdale. Once we reach resolution on these matters, we will seek to reach a final agreement with the county.

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
       
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.
Town/Village of Harrison 64 9,600 Settled in October 2022.  Proposed Consent Decree has been lodged with the court and we are awaiting DOJ approval after which it will be formally entered with the court. 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   On Sept. 14, 2021 court denied the motion to dismiss filed by Larchmont and three other towns and ruled Save the Sound had stated a valid claim and our case could go forward. Since then we have re-entered into settlement discussions. Repairs to system are complete and flow monitoring is scheduled to commence. A Status Report on settlement is due to the court by Nov. 15, 2022.
Town of Mamaroneck 35 640 On Sept. 14, 2021 court denied the motion to dismiss filed by Town of Mamaroneck and three other towns and ruled Save the Sound had stated a valid claim and our case could go forward. Since then we have re-entered into settlement discussions. Repairs to system are almost complete and flow monitoring is scheduled to commence. A Status Report on settlement is due to the court by Nov. 15, 2022.
City of New Rochelle 110 18,000 On Sept. 14, 2021 court denied the motion to dismiss filed by New Rochelle and three other towns and ruled Save the Sound had stated a valid claim and our case could go forward. Since then we have re-entered into settlement discussions. Repairs to system are almost complete and flow monitoring is scheduled to commence. A Status Report on settlement is due to the court by Nov. 15, 2022.
Village of Pelham Manor 12 360 On Sept. 14, 2021 court denied the motion to dismiss filed by Pelham Manor and three other towns and ruled Save the Sound had stated a valid claim and our case could go forward. Since then we have re-entered into settlement discussions. Repairs to system are almost complete and flow monitoring is scheduled to commence. A Status Report on settlement is due to the court by Nov. 15, 2022.
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 $35,000,000 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 now in discussions with Port Chester on a new plan to address the remaining issues.
City of Rye 53.5 5,249 Consent Decree entered February 24, 2021 requiring completion of repairs by December 2024. Save the Sound advised the Court that
Rye was behind schedule on repairs and requested a briefing schedule for a motion to compel compliance. Since August, negotiations have been proceeding and the briefing schedule, if not resolved, is as follows: Save the Sound’s motion to compel filed by December 30, 2022; City of Rye’s response by January 20, 2023; Save the Sound’s reply by February 10, 2023.
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.
Village of Scarsdale 82 755 On August 19, 2022, Plaintiffs requested that the Court place Scarsdale back on the litigation calendar. On August 21, the Court granted Plaintiffs’ request, ordering Scarsdale to answer the complaint by September 30, to file a proposed case management plan by October 4, and to appear for an in-person scheduling conference on October 14.
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. In the last quarter, the environmental benefit payment was paid to the Bronx River Alliance for use on a riparian planting project, and White Plains delivered their final SSES Engineering Progress Report. Plaintiffs are in the process of reviewing the Report to assess compliance with the Consent Order.
 Total 472.5 39,004  

Latest step: Reached a settlement with the Town/Village of Harrison.

Next step: Generally, we will seek to reach final resolution with the remaining towns of Scarsdale, New Rochelle, Town of Mamaroneck, Larchmont, and Pelham Manor and eventually the county. See chart above for details.

Further reading:

Action Opportunities:

Last Updated: October 26, 2022


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