Legislature authorizes suit over proposed Kiryas Joel water pipeline

| 28 Sep 2011 | 02:17

    GOSHEN-Orange County Executive Edward Diana has the authority to sue the Village of Kiryas Joel to force it to expand an environmental study of its proposed water pipeline. The county Legislature voted 18-3 last week to authorize Diana to spend up to $250,000 to begin the legal process. Legislators - even among those supporting the measure - disagreed about whether the suit could stop the line from being built. The Hasidic village wants to tap the New York Catskill aqueduct in New Windosr and build a 13-mile pipeline to bring the water to Kiryas Joel. The village would treat the water and has applied for a $20 million federal grant toward the estimated $22.2 million cost. The suit is a challenge to the village's Environmental Impact Statement (EIS), required by New York State law on major projects. The county would charge that not all essential questions have been answered and more study is needed. It would not specifically attempt to stop the construction. But Spencer McLaughlin of Monroe said he believes the village cannot find an acceptable answer to the wastewater issue. This could force it to drop the project. One issue is that while Kiryas Joel has a sewer treatment plant, it could not handle the estimated two million gallons per day of water the pipeline could bring in. County officials say the county's Harriman sewer treatment plant also would be unable to handle the additional water. Legislators Michael Amo of Central Valley, Jeffrey Berkman of Middletown and Thomas Pahucki of New Hampton voted against the measure. "We are spending a quarter of a million dollars of taxpayers' money - and I believe it's just the first installment - to sue another municipality," said Amo, whose district includes Kiryas Joel. "We have never done that in the history of Orange County." Proponents fear that the county, as the holder of the license on the sewer plant, could be liable for far more than $250,000 in potential lawsuits and fines should the plant's capacity be overwhelmed by additional water. At the Oct. 7 meeting, several residents expressed fear that the increased water supply would allow even faster growth of a village that is already growing at nearly 6 percent a year. "This is for the purpose of trying to protect our zoning laws, without which the air our children breathe, the water they drink and the sanctity of our surroundings would be severely damaged by unbridled growth and development," said Robert Rovell of Woodbury.