DEC raising a stink over Esopus pollution

By Jay Braman Jr.
Routine testing of water in the Esopus Creek allegedly shows that septic systems belonging to residents of the Hamlet of Phoenicia might be polluting the creek’s water, according to the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) which conducted the test.
Water from the Esopus Creek flows into the Ashokan Reservoir, which serves as a drinking water source for residents in the New York City area.
As a result, the DEC has informed the Town of Shandaken that it will begin further testing to locate the homes and businesses they say are to blame.
Kenneth Kosinski, section chief of the New York City Watershed Section for DEC, reported the Esopus pollution in a March 30 the letter to Shandaken Supervisor Robert Stanley and to several other agencies including the State Department of Health, the Federal Environmental Protection Agency and the New York City Department of Environmental Protection.
Kosinski wrote that his department has been monitoring water quality in the Esopus between Oliverea and Boiceville since 2007 and will issue a final report on the findings later this year.
“The initial results…indicate that water quality is adversely impacted below the Hamlet of Phoenicia and that these water quality impacts may be a result of runoff from the un-sewered hamlet. The Department will continue to monitor water quality along this portion of the Upper Esopus Creek and plans to undertake an initiative to identify and track down potential sources of pollution….”
Stanley, who got the letter just before heading out of town for a few days vacation, is a first- term supervisor who has inherited the long-standing and controversial issue of whether or not Phoenicia will get a sewer system. The City of New York has offered to pay $17.2 million to build one for the hamlet, but in 2007 Phoenicia voters turned the offer down, with the majority fearing high annual operating costs once they inherit the facility. Since then the town has investigated alternative systems that were said to have less annual operating costs, but New York City has rejected those ideas.
The town continues to try and find a plan suitable for Phoenicia and the city has kept the $17.2 in limbo in hopes that the hamlet moves forward with a project.
“It’s certainly relevant to the Phoenicia sewer issue,” Stanley said of Kosinski’s letter.
Kosinski wrote that his department is well aware of the history of the sewer debate in Phoenicia.
“Our department believes that the long-term solution to the sewage disposal options is the installation of a public sewer system. Furthermore, it is the department’s understanding that if (the City) funding is not utilized then the entire financial burden of constructing such a facility would be the responsibility of the residents and commercial businesses within the hamlet,” wrote Kosinski.