Consolidated SPDES Renewals
The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation ("NYSDEC") is soliciting comments on its proposal for restoration of natural resources injured by a chemical release to the Hoosic River from a facility operated by Oak-Mitsui, Inc. in Hoosick Falls, Rensselaer County, New York.
In June 2001, Oak-Mitsui, Inc. ("OM"), which manufactured copper foil for use in circuit boards at a facility in Hoosick Falls, Rensselaer County, accidentally released several thousand gallons of copper sulfate into the Hoosic River (the "Release"). The Release affected more than 10 miles of the river, from Hoosick Falls to approximately the Buskirk Bridge area, killing thousands of fish and adversely impacting other biota. The Release adversely affected recreational fishing on this reach of the Hoosic. However, the copper sulfate released by OM flushed through the river system almost immediately. DEC fishery biologists decided not to replace the dead fish with hatchery fish, consistent with DEC’s general policy to allow for natural recovery via return of fish into the impacted area from non-impacted tributaries and unaffected upstream and downstream reaches. At the time of the Release, DEC estimated that this natural recovery process would take about three years; hence, the impacted portion of the Hoosic River has likely returned to pre-Release conditions.
On June 30, 2004, Rensselaer County Supreme Court Justice James Canfield approved a Consent Decree entered into between the parties that settles OM’s liabilities to the State arising from the Release. OM has paid the State $190,000 for natural resource damages, which is available to fund river-related restoration activities.
Natural Resource Damages
Several federal environmental statutes, as well as New York State common law, allow States to seek "natural resource damages" when there is a release of hazardous pollutants that injures natural resources. The Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation and Liability Act (CERCLA), 42 U.S.C. §9601 et. seq. , the Oil Pollution Act of 1990, 33 U.S.C. § 2701 et. seq., and the Clean Water Act, 33 U.S.C. § 401 et. seq. all provide both a basis and guidance for the pursuit of NRD claims. Natural resource damages constitute compensation for the injury to, loss of, or loss of the use of New York’s natural resources. Natural resources include land, biota, air, surface waters and groundwater. The goal of an NRD settlement is to make New York’s citizenry "whole" by restoring for their use and enjoyment either the injured or lost resources per se, or the services provided by the lost or injured resources. Thus, under these federal statutes, NRD settlement funds must be used for the restoration of injured resources or, in some cases, the replacement with, or acquisition of, like resources. In the event the replacement or acquisition option is pursued, the acquired resources must provide services to the impacted environment and to the public that are similar to those formerly provided by the injured resources. The State has applied these principles to the Release and the recovery of damages from OM.
The Rensselaer Taconic Land Conservancy (RTLC) has submitted a written proposal to purchase the development rights to two contiguous parcels of farmland, consisting of about 39 acres, with 0.6 miles of frontage along the Hoosic River, between the Eagle Bridge and the Buskirk Bridge, to protect the River and provide public access for fishing and boating.
The State proposes to (1) provide a portion of the settlement funds to the RTLC to enable that group to enter into a conservation easement with the owners of the two farms, thereby preserving the 39 acres as farmland in perpetuity, (2) construct and maintain a parking lot, trail and canoe access area on the western edge of the Beck parcel, and (3) purchase a buffer strip approximately 30-50 feet wide along the entire border of the farmland and the Hoosic River, thereby ensuring free access for anglers along this section of the river. Such a buffer, consisting of shrubs and trees backed by a grassland filter strip, would prevent further erosion of the riverbank, minimize the contamination of the river by silt, pesticide and nutrient runoff, and greatly improve habitat for fish and wildlife. DEC operations staff would be responsible for maintaining the parking lot, trail, canoe access area and buffer strip.
Comments on NYSDEC’s Proposal are due by August 27, 2004. Comments should be submitted to David Keehn, Associate Attorney, New York State Dept. of Environmental Conservation, 625 Broadway, Albany NY 12233, firstname.lastname@example.org. Mr. Keehn can be reached at (518) 402-9521.
Greene County - The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation, as lead agency, has determined that the Construction of One Disabled Accessible Equestrian Mounting Platform and a Disabled Accessible Campsite and Privy will not have a significant adverse environmental impact. The action involves the construction of one disabled accessible equestrian mounting platform and an accessible campsite with accessible privy pursuant to the Consent Decree No. 98-CV-1117 (LEK-RWS). Construction activities may require pruning of branches, and minor tree cutting to provide overhead and side clearance for persons on horseback and the construction of the accessible equestrian mounting platform. The project is located at Kaaterskill Wild Forest, Greene County, Town of Hunter, Sleepy Hollow Horse Trail; accessible campsite/accessible equestrian mounting platform.
Contact: Frank Parks, NYS DEC, 65561 State Highway 10, Suite One, Stamford, NY 12167-9503, phone: (607) 652-7365.
Rensselaer County - The Planning Board of the Town of Hoosick, as lead agency, has determined that the proposed Hoosick View Subdivision will not have a significant adverse environmental impact. The action involves a subdivision of approximately 17.83 acres situated on the westerly side of Mechanic Street extension into eight new residential lots.
Contact: Herb Anderson, Town of Hoosick Planning Bord, Town Offices, Church Street, Hoosick Falls, NY 12090.
Schenectady County - The Town of Rotterdam Planning Commission, as lead agency, has determined that the proposed Viscusi Builder's Riverside Condominium Development, will not have a significant adverse environmental impact. The action involves Final Site Plan, Boundary Line Adjustment, and Lot Consolidation Subdivision for the proposed construction of a twenty-two (22) unit condominium complex consisting of three (3) buildings. The project is located on the east side of Bridge Street, west of the lands of Woestina Elementary in Rotterdam Junction, NY.
Contact: Peter J. Comenzo, 1100 Sunrise Boulevard, Rotterdam, NY 12306, phone:(518) 355-7660, fax: (518) 355-2725.