In response to the New York State Department of Health’s refusal to hold public hearings on their draft filtration avoidance determination, Ulster County residents are weighing in on the issue, speaking out at a public forum Wednesday evening. YNN's Alexandra Weishaupt has more on residents’ reaction and their hopes for the future of the Lower Esopus Creek.
KINGSTON, N.Y. – “The people of Ulster County need a voice,” said Saugerties Town Supervisor Kelly Meyers. “They’ve been abused for too long and it’s very, very important that they have a say in this important document.”
It’s the document that gives the Department of Environmental Protection the freedom to continue releasing millions of gallons of muddied water from the Ashokan Reservoir into the lower Esopus Creek to avoid filtration. This would happen without input from Ulster County residents who feel the direct effects of the release.
“We’ve seen bank erosion because of the muddied water. I have personally seen fewer bass in the creek because of the water,” said Saugerties resident Mary O’Donnell.
Mary O’Donnell and her family have lived on the creek for more than 60 years and say to see the affects of the muddied waters unfold is nothing short of disturbing.
“Obviously you’re not going to swim in the creek when it looks like chocolate milk,” said O’Donnell. “You don’t even want to go boating on the creek because it really isn’t very pleasant. Fishing has been affected.”
It’s been an ongoing issue within the community since October 2010. As the deadline for public comment on the FAD approaches, local leaders say its time Ulster County residents are heard.
“If we could get them to at least comment on our comments, then I think we’re moving in the right direction,” said Environmental, Energy and Technology Committee Chairman Carl Belfiglio.
In the hopes it will lead towards an end to the release of turbid water, putting a stop to the local devastation.
“What they’re doing is putting the needs of New York City to have cheap water above the needs of the local people here to have a healthy environment and it’s just not fair,” said Meyers. “The Department of Health needs to hear us.”
All testimony presented at the public hearing will be compiled and presented to New York State Department of Health on behalf of Ulster County residents. The last day folks can voice their opinions is October 15th. Only written comments will be accepted.