The discussion of the resolution began with DPW superintendent Rob Perry once again telling about Hudson's antiquated sewer system and the evils of CSOs (combined sewer overflows). It is frustrating that the public discussion of this project rarely seems to get beyond establishing need to examining if what is being proposed to meet that need is the best solution or to assessing the impacts of the proposed solution on the environment.
Alderman Tiffany Garriga (Second Ward), trying to focus the discussion on risk and impact, asked three questions. Her first question was: Can the grant be used to create green infrastructure so we don't have to dump storm water in North Bay? She mentioned rain gardens, as an example, and Perry's response equated rain gardens with green roofs and seemed to dismiss the suggestion as something the City could not do. Rain gardens and green roofs are two of several types of green infrastructure recommended by the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation. Garriga's second question was: Has the City adopted a policy that new parking lots must be constructed with permeable surfaces? The answer to the question is no, but Perry talked about the soil in Hudson being mostly clay, which limits the amount of water that can be absorbed, and maintained that some process would still be needed to convey the remainder of the storm water elsewhere. Garriga's third question was: Why is this project being considered a Type II action? In answering the question, Perry pointed out that untreated sanitary sewage and storm water were going into North Bay right now.
Newly appointed First Ward alderman Rick Rector asked, "Is this project part of a master infrastructure plan?" City attorney Carl Whitbeck responded to the question by talking about SPDES requirements and the consent order, claiming that the sewer treatment plant is not in compliance with the Clean Water Act and reiterating his opinion that the proposed sewer project does not require environmental study.
Timothy O'Connor, who has been the most steadfast opponent of the sewer separation plan, which would discharge an estimated 242 million gallons of untreated storm water into North Bay each year, pointed out that the consent order was not for a general violation but for a specific violation that happened in 2007, when waste water from Hudson Fabrics was discharged untreated into the river. O'Connor reiterated that no one knows the impact of discharging storm water into North Bay and argued that "the Council can put mitigating conditions on the project" by deeming the project an unlisted action under SEQRA instead of a Type II action.
The Council is scheduled to vote on the resolution to declare the sewer separation project a Type II action on Tuesday, April 21. The online petition urging the Council not to pass this resolution and to have an environmental impact statement (EIS) prepared before proceeding with the project now has 299 signatures. You can add yours by clicking here.
A letter to the editor written by O'Connor appeared in the print version of the Register-Star on Friday but not in the online version. The letter has been posted on imby: "A SEQRA exemption could culminate 12 years of silencing the public."
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