Settlement Ends Opposition By City Of Yonkers To Bronx River Clean-up

NEW YORK, NY (January 22, 2007)—On Friday, January 12, 2007, a Supreme Court judge in Westchester approved a settlement agreement between the State and the City of Yonkers, ending Yonkers’ four-year opposition to cleaning up its discharges of raw sewage into the Bronx River. The State had brought suit against Yonkers in 2002 to force the City to abate its pollution, which has been discharging into the Bronx River in large volumes on a daily basis.

Under the settlement, Yonkers will pay $2.2 million to fund an investigation of the pollution that will be performed by an environmental engineering firm chosen and supervised by the State. The City must promptly eliminate all sources of sewage disclosed in the investigation. If it fails to do so, the State can require Yonkers to post additional funds that would be used to pay a State contractor to do the work.

“My office is committed to fighting for clean air, clean water, and environmental protection,” Cuomo said. “Implementation of this settlement, along with settlements entered into with other entities along the Bronx River, will result in most of the Bronx River meeting water quality standards, and will minimize the health dangers to river users.”

The settlement follows a decision by the Appellate Division, Second Department, on December 19, 2006, affirming an earlier order by Justice Nicolai of the Supreme Court in Westchester that had required the City to eliminate its raw sewage discharges into the Bronx River by July 2006. Yonkers violated that order by continuing to discharge large volumes of highly contaminated sewage into the River. To punish the violation, on November 2, 2006, Justice Nicolai issued another order requiring Yonkers to pay over $802,000 to fund storm water pollution projects on the River. Under the settlement approved by Justice Nicolai, the City has agreed to pay the money and not to appeal that order.

The Yonkers settlement agreement marks an important milestone in the Attorney General's Bronx River Watershed Initiative aimed at reducing pollution into the 24-mile Bronx River that flows through Westchester and Bronx Counties. Raw sewage discharged by Yonkers is by far the largest cause of pollution to the Bronx River, causing health risks for over 1,000 members of the public, including children, who regularly boat, swim, and fish in the river each year.

Previous settlements have been reached with the Bronx Zoo, the New York Botanical Gardens, Yonkers Raceway, the cities of White Plains and Mount Vernon, the Village of Scarsdale, and the Town of Greenburgh. Unlike Yonkers, these Bronx River polluters promptly settled with the State, avoiding protracted litigation.

Once cleanups under the Attorney General's settlements are fully implemented, most of the Bronx River is expected to achieve compliance with water quality standards, thereby minimizing the health dangers to river users. Large reductions in storm water pollution are expected as well.

The litigation against Yonkers has been handled by Assistant Attorney General Philip Bein and Environmental Scientists Patricia Primi and Michael Surgan of the Environmental Protection Bureau, with assistance provided by Scott Crisafulli, Associate Counsel of the Department of Environmental Conservation.

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