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, and 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 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 5 municipalities (Port Chester, Village of Mamaroneck, White Plains, Rye Brook, and Rye), which have agreed to make necessary repairs, keep their systems in a state of good repair going forward, and 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. 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.

Finally, we are continuing 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:

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 Negotiating consent decree. Parties have resolved all major substantive issues and expect to file a final settlement in fall 2022.
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.
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 complete and flow monitoring is scheduled to commence.
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 complete and flow monitoring is scheduled to commence.
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 complete and flow monitoring is scheduled to commence.
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. 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 passage of a private lateral ordinance (done) and completion of repairs by December 2024. There have been some missed deadlines, and after some correspondence with the judge, we are re-negotiating a new consent decree to get them back on track.
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.
Village of Scarsdale 82 755 February 2022 status report to the court indicates that settlement talks have reached an impasse, and if parties are unable to make substantive progress in fall 2022, they will seek to proceed with litigation. Repairs to the system are on schedule to be completed in June 2022.
City of White Plains 26 200 Settled with Consent Order and Amended Consent Order, requiring repairs to be completed by March 31, 2022 and flow limits in County Sewer Act by September 21, 2022. A report was submitted in August 2022, and we are reviewing to determine compliance with the above requirements.
 Total 472.5 39,004  

Latest step: Federal court decision finding that our complaint 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: Generally, we will seek to reach final resolution with the remaining towns of Harrison, 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: September 8, 2022


Get Involved
Jump in

Join the fight! Memberships start at just $25 – support that’s badly needed now for a healthy, sustainable environment over the long term.

Join now

Take part

August 2022 – October 2022
This year marks our 20th year of hosting cleanups across Connecticut as part of the International Coastal Cleanup (ICC). Join us in this effort by registering to cleanup our beaches, rivers, parks, and natural spaces.

See more

Connect with us

Stay in touch by joining our activist network email list. We'll keep you up-to-date with current initiatives, ways you can take action and volunteer opportunities.

Sign up