Monday, December 16, 2019

Orange, KJ at odds over sewer permits 

Orange County is withholding sewer permits for more than 3,000 planned homes in and around Kiryas Joel while awaiting the results of studies to determine if the village's main sewer lines can handle more sewage or if sections of them need to be replaced with larger pipes.

The studies were prompted by an overflow in Kiryas Joel in August, when county officials say unusually heavy discharge caused wastewater to spill out of two manholes and into four building basements.

The county, which runs the sewer system that serves that village and other communities in southeastern Orange, sent letters last month telling housing developers it couldn't approve their sewer permits at that time. Officials said in those letters they will decide if pipe improvements are needed after the studies are completed, but also are exploring ways to reduce peak flows so they can allow more hookups to occur.

The permit delay comes on the cusp of a housing boom in the Satmar Hasidic community, which has hundreds of units under construction and many more set to be built. The developer of the 1,600-unit Veyoel Moshe Gardens complex already paid for an earlier sewer-capacity study and has agreed to pay $4.8 million to replace a pipe in Monroe that bears the combined sewage from both of Kiryas Joel's trunk lines.

That giant condo project, the largest of those awaiting sewer permits, is being built on a 70-acre peninsula of Kiryas Joel along Nininger Road, across from the Monroe State Police barracks.

Kiryas Joel Administrator Gedalye Szegedin blasted the suspension of sewer permits in a statement on Thursday as a de facto housing moratorium for the village. He blamed the county for failing to anticipate the dwindling pipe capacity and replacing the trunk lines, using the charges it collects from sewer ratepayers to pay for the work.

"Of course we are not advocating the continued spilling of sewage onto our streets and basements and the contamination of our environment," Szegedin said. "But we are demanding the County to choose operating its sewer main system properly as a public utility, rather than using the sewer problem as an excuse to stop housing in Kiryas Joel."

Erik Denega, the county's public works commissioner, said in response on Friday that the county "does monitor and maintain the conveyance system, but is not obligated to replace pipes to increase capacity," and has not done so anywhere else in the sewer district.


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