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Millennium Pipeline’s wake

Awaiting a septic system and road repairs

By FRITZ MAYER

RIVER VALLEY — “If we broke it, we’ll fix it.” That was the promise Millennium Pipeline’s director of external affairs Mike Armiak uttered last year, and as recently as the spring of this year, when the company was putting the finishing work on its newly upgraded gas pipeline. But six months on, some people who were on the receiving end of that promise have said the company has not come through.

Perhaps most frustrated are Bill Zelop and his partner Anna Marie Anderson who live on 11 acres on Hungry Hill Road in Hancock, NY. The River Reporter first published a story on the couple in March, when they complained about several negative impacts of the pipeline replacement activity.

Among them: men working on the pipeline used the woods around their house as a toilet; the foundation of their house and their fireplace were cracked in places because of blasting; they received hostile words from some of the people working at the site.

There was also a charge leveled by men who worked for Millennium subcontractors that Zelop had fired a shotgun at them; those charges have since been dismissed.

But worst of all, according to Zelop, their septic system was ruined in August of 2008 because of the pipeline work, and now more than a year later, it’s still not working. The company did replace the couple’s septic system with a brand-new septic system that was a purported to be state of the art. However, the system is now oozing up raw sewage onto the lawn, and black liquid seeps into the tub if you leave the water running too long.

Zelop, who with Anderson, visited the newspaper on September 27, said the company’s position is that it has fulfilled its obligation and has washed its hand of the situation, and has refused to take any further measures.

According to Armiak, Zelop picked the local contractor that installed the system, and that the system was installed according to local codes.

The couple has filed a lawsuit, but according to Zelop, that has little meaning to Millennium. “They basically said to us, ‘go ahead and sue us.’ You know how many times a week they hear that someone is going to sue?” he asked.

Local roads

The Cochecton highway superintendent is not much more pleased with Millennium than are Zelop and Anderson. Brian DuBois would like the company to fix the damage it inflicted in 2008 as its huge rigs were hauling machinery and equipment through the winding country roads.

The trucks gouged the pavement in numerous places, and created cracks in others; it’s damage that will be made worse as a second winter bears down on the blacktop.

DuBois came up with a figure of $1.25 million in estimating what it would cost to put the roads back into the condition they were in before Millennium moved into the town. He offered to have the town highway department do the work for $1 million.

Just before Labor Day, DuBois said, the company offered to settle with the town for $600,000. DuBois rejected the offer. “That’s not even enough to cover the materials,” he said.

DuBois said the company is negotiating with the town attorney.

Armiak confirmed that the two sides are negotiating and added that the subcontractor Precision Pipeline is responsible for repairing any damage. He also said that the two sides had significant differences of opinion about the amount of the damage.