Shandaken supervisor balks at sewer project

By Jay Braman Jr.
If the Hamlet of Phoenicia ever builds a sewer system, it won’t be just cars and trucks crossing the major bridges in the locale.

Effluent from the hamlet’s toilets will be too. Every minute of every day.

And since the bridges in Phoenicia are in the habit of breaking during the more and more frequent floods, local officials are wondering what would happen if the sewer mains broke on the bridges and sent gallons of sewage into the Ashokan Reservoir downstream.

This and other climate change issues have prompted Shandaken Supervisor Rob Stanley to demand more time to sort out the issues surrounding the proposed sewer system for Phoenicia.
On Friday he sent a letter to the New York City Department of Environmental Protection, which has given Phoenicia $17.2 million to build the system, stating that until these issues are sorted out no one really knows what the hamlet will be getting itself in to.

Lots of flooding
“I’m sure you are aware of the four major flood events that hit the Hamlet of Phoenicia starting in October of 2010,” he wrote in a May 25 letter.”…What is planned to mitigate the possible loss of sewer usage due to a failure of such a sewer line serving Phoenicia proper from the proposed plant on the southern side of the bridge?”

In addition to the pollution and service disruption issues, there is the matter of extra costs.
“There does not appear to be a dollar limit on what the residents will be charged…..” he wrote. “We are uncomfortable moving this project forward knowing there is an open ended liability…”
Many in the area fear that such a liability is a certainty.

In nearby Boiceville, a similar sewer system, built just over a year ago, suffered $130,000 worth of damage during Tropical Storm Irene. The treatment plant, located a stone’s throw from the Esopus, flooded inside as inflow pumps filled the system faster than outflow pumps could get rid of it.
It is expected that insurance will cover most of the cost.

Stanley asks that the city grant Phoenicia a time extension so these matters can be resolved.
Phoenicia was told to decide by the beginning of August on whether to build the system or not. If they do not meet that deadline, the city will give the $17.2 million to some other community for a project.