KINGSTON – Ulster County Executive Mike Hein announced yesterday that the county has filed a Notice of Intent to sue the NY City Department of Environmental Protection (NYCDEP) over discharges of turbid water into the lower Esopus Creek. The discharges, which emanate from the Ashokan Reservoir, are a violation of the federal Clean Water Act, Hein said. According to a later press release from Hein's office, the action "seeks to enjoin activity associated with operating the Ashokan Reservoir Waste Channel including unpermitted releases of excessively turbid water" — to prevent NYCDEP from engaging in further discharges.
"It is my great hope that NYCDEP will cease their assault upon the quality of life, economic prosperity and environmental quality of Ulster County," Hein said. "They are showing a blatant disregard for the health and welfare of our residents and the Lower Esopus environment. They need to stop the discharges immediately and make things right. If they are unwilling to cease their actions, the county is prepared to take immediate action and sue the NYCDEP. We will use every resource at our disposal to protect natural resources, property and the economic prosperity of our community."
The discharges are believed to have caused damage to the lower Esopus, including fish kills, well failures, and damage to irrigations systems. The water is also alleged to contain a high level of pollutants.
One local farmer said that he has never seen anything like this before.
"I have been farming the lands along the Esopus for 25 years and I have never seen the level of mud and sediment that the NYCDEP has released over the past 97 days," said Bruce Davenport, the owner of Davenport Farms in Stone Ridge.
A stakeholder's meeting, sponsored by the DEP, will be held at 10 a.m. Friday at the Ashokan Center, Inc. 477 Beaverkill Road, Olivebridge, NY 12461. However, the DEP has said the meeting is not open to the public.