State Presses Forward With Bronx River Cleanup

Attorney General Spitzer and Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) Commissioner Denise M. Sheehan today announced agreements with four Westchester County municipalities to stop discharging raw sewage into the Bronx River from their storm sewers.

The cities of White Plains and Mount Vernon, the Town of Greenburgh, and the Village of Scarsdale have agreed to eliminate such discharges by May 1, 2007, and to monitor their storm sewers to prevent future discharges. In addition, the municipalities together will spend more than $150,000 to upgrade their stormwater systems, and pay civil penalties.

"I commend the communities who signed these agreements for doing their part to help reclaim the Bronx River and transform it from an abused waterway into a prized public resource," said Attorney General Spitzer.

DEC Commissioner Sheehan said: "New York State has made significant progress in protecting and enhancing water quality by enforcing against polluters. The agreements announced today with four Bronx River watershed communities will further DEC's efforts to protect and improve important natural resources in our urban areas."

The agreements announced today mark continued progress in the Attorney General's Bronx River Watershed Initiative aimed at reducing pollution of the 24-mile river that flows through Westchester and Bronx Counties.

The Attorney General's Office provided notice to the municipalities of violations for sewage discharges on August 1, 2005. Since then, the four communities have investigated and eliminated sewage discharges from some of their sewer pipes, but other discharges have continued.

The settlement agreements are the culmination of months of negotiations to ensure that the remaining sewage discharges are identified and halted, and that the municipalities pay penalties and fund projects to reduce stormwater pollution. DEC referred the violations to the Attorney General's Office and assisted in the investigations.

The discharge of untreated sewage to the river endangers human health and the environment and violates a variety of state and federal health and environmental laws. Discharges from the storm sewers of these municipalities, while small in comparison to those by the City of Yonkers which is subject to a court order to eliminate its pollution, contribute to health risks for river users. Hundreds of members of the public, including children, regularly boat, swim and fish in the river each year.

In addition to eliminating their sewage discharges, under today's agreements:

  • The Town of Greenburgh will invest $16,524 in stormwater pollution reduction projects and pay a penalty of $1,836;
  • The City of Mount Vernon will pay a penalty of $5,400;
  • The Village of Scarsdale will invest $78,975 in stormwater pollution reduction projects and pay a penalty of $8,775; and
  • The City of White Plains will invest $56,852 in stormwater pollution reduction projects and pay a penalty of $6,318.

Previous settlements have been reached with the Bronx Zoo and the New York Botanical Gardens, which have fully implemented measures to cut off their pollution of the Bronx River. Last month, the Attorney General reached an agreement with Yonkers Raceway to eliminate its sewage discharges into the river. In addition, the Attorney General's Office obtained a court order in 2004, on behalf of the state and DEC, requiring the City of Yonkers to stop discharging untreated sewage to the Bronx River. Investigations of other Bronx River polluters continue.

Once cleanups under the Attorney General's settlements and its lawsuit against the City of Yonkers 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 stormwater pollution are expected as well.

The agreements with the four municipalities were negotiated by Assistant Attorney General Philip Bein and Environmental Scientist Patricia Primi of the Environmental Protection Bureau under the supervision of Bureau Chief Peter Lehner, with assistance provided by DEC staff.

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