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

Location: Port Chester, Rye Brook, Rye, Village of Mamaroneck, Town of Mamaroneck, Pelham, Larchmont, New Rochelle, White Plains, Scarsdale — New York | Status: Active

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 were a main reason that beaches were 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 5 municipalities (Port Chester, Village of Mamaroneck, White Plains, Rye Brook, and Rye) where they have agreed to (1) make necessary repairs, (2) keep their systems in a state of good repair going forward, and (3) perform $225,000 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. Our 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.

Finally, we are continuing to complete negotiations with Harrison and 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:

MunicipalityMiles of pipe studied and to be repairedDefects to be repaired
Westchester CountyN/AN/A
Town/Village of Harrison649,600
Village of Larchmont204,000
Town of Mamaroneck35640
City of New Rochelle11018,000
Village of Pelham Manor12360
Village of Port Chester4521.72 linear miles
City of Rye53.55,249
Village of Rye Brook25200
Village of Scarsdale82755
City of White PlainsN/AN/A

Latest Step: Federal court decision finding that our complaint had properly stated a violation of the Clean Water Act and that our case could proceed. Successful final resolutions with Port Chester, Village of Mamaroneck, White Plains, Rye Brook, and Rye.

Next Step: Seek to reach final resolution with the county and the remaining towns of Harrison, Scarsdale, New Rochelle, Town of Mamaroneck, Larchmont, and Pelham Manor.

Further Reading:

Action Opportunities:

Last Updated: October 22, 2021

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