TRR photo by Fritz Mayer

Delaware Riverkeeper opposes Eldred Preserve sewer

ELDRED, NY — The developers of the new Eldred Preserve have applied to the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) for a permit that would allow them to discharge 17,000 gallons per day (GPD) from a proposed sewer into Halfway Brook. 
The Delaware Riverkeeper Network (DRN) has submitted a comment to the DEC, urging them to reject the permit and instead install a large septic system or some other system that would not discharge directly into the waterway. The proposed sewer would serve a reconstituted Eldred Preserve, which would include a 28 lodging units, a restaurant and bar and an event space.
Maya van Rossum, the leader of DRN, wrote, “The headwaters of any stream, particularly one of such high [water] quality as Halfway Brook, are particularly important for ensuring waterway health down its entire length. Seventeen-thousand GDP of wastewater into the headwaters of the Halfway Brook, a small stream with such high quality that is particularly vulnerable to the discharge proposed, makes no sense. A large-scale, well-functioning septic system or other non-direct discharge strategy is far preferable to the direct discharge of additional flow and pollution to this sensitive stream of such importance to the region’s quality and health.”
Developer Dan Silna’s provided this statement: “When considering wastewater on the site, we rejected other options that, although  more cost-effective, would have required the removal of five acres (or more) of trees.
“Instead, we are making the additional investment in a full wastewater treatment plant  that requires that fewer trees be removed and ensures that the waste will be thoroughly  treated so that there will be minimal impact on the Halfway Brook.    
“The treatment plant has been carefully designed under the guidance of the New York  State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) to adhere to — and exceed — all  discharge requirements outlined by the State Pollutant Discharge Elimination System  (SPDES) program, as well as a series of additional requirements set forth by the  Delaware River Basin Commission’s Water Quality Regulations.”  Visit www.riverreporter.com for the full statement.
Barryville resident David Hulse, who is a reporter for this newspaper, lives in a home that abuts Halfway Brook. In his letter to the DEC, he requested an extended comment period and wrote that the “DEC wrongly identified the location of this discharge as the Town of Thompson, rather than the hamlet of Eldred in the Town of Highland, [and] impacted residents were not properly notified of this application or given realistic opportunity to voice their concerns.”
The DEC had been accepting comment on the matter until March 29, but becasue of requests by DNR the department has extended the deadline to April 12. 
Interested parties can send comments to Sarah A Pawliczak, NYSDEC Region 3 Headquarters, 21 S. Putt Corners Rd., New Paltz, NY 12561. The email address is DEP.R3@dec.ny.gov.


Preserve opening postponed

 

In an unrelated development, Silna and his wife Joan have issued a press release saying that the opening of the new Eldred Preserve has been pushed back from the end of 2019 until the spring of 2020.
The press release stated, “…the project’s development team faced several unforeseeable delays brought on primarily by extreme weather conditions in 2018 and the early months of 2019.
“In fact, 2018 was the second wettest year ever recorded by the Mohonk Lake Cooperative Weather Station over its 122-year history. The rainy season was quickly followed by January’s polar vortex, which brought on dangerously frigid temperatures.”
The re-created facility will have three elements that have existed for some time in Sullivan County: The Eldred Preserve, The Bradstan Country Hotel and The Old Homestead Restaurant.
Dan said, “Of course, we’re disappointed, but we’re also grateful for the opportunity to make the guest experience at The Eldred Preserve even more transformative than originally planned.”


Statement from Dan Silna, developer of Eldred Preserve 

 

Sullivan County has always been a part of me. I’ve been here for 75 years. I grew up here, and even met my wife, Joan, here. We absolutely love the natural beauty of this  area, and would never make decisions that would cause it harm.  

We are dedicated to ensuring that The Eldred Preserve project is developed carefully so  that we can help showcase all that we adore about the Sullivan County Catskills.  

 When considering wastewater on the site, we rejected other options that, although  more cost-effective, would have required the removal of five acres (or more) of trees. 

 Instead, we are making the additional investment in a full wastewater treatment plant  that requires that fewer trees be removed and ensures that the waste will be thoroughly  treated so that there will be minimal impact on the Halfway Brook.   

The treatment plant has been carefully designed under the guidance of the New York  State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) to adhere to - and exceed - all  discharge requirements outlined by the State Pollutant Discharge Elimination System  (SPDES) program, as well as a series of additional requirements set forth by the  Delaware River Basin Commission's Water Quality Regulations.   

The SPDES program was approved by the United States Environmental Protection  Agency (in accordance with the federal Clean Water Act) to eliminate the pollution of  New York waters and to maintain the highest quality of water possible - consistent with  public health, public enjoyment of the resource, protection and propagation of fish  and wildlife, and industrial development in the state.   

The Delaware River Basin Commission, which includes representatives from Delaware, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, and the federal government, is charged with the  conservation, utilization, development, management, and control of water and related  resources of the Delaware River Basin.   

According to the SPDES draft permit, “based upon the written recommendation of the  DRBC staff… the project does not substantially impair or conflict with the Commission's  Comprehensive Plan.”    

For us, the natural environment that surrounds The Eldred Preserve is the embodiment of  peace and tranquility, the very best Sullivan County Catskills has to offer. We have the  utmost confidence in the guidance offered by those very agencies whose missions are  to protect the region’s natural resources.


Reaction from Delaware Riverkeeper Maya van Rossum 

 

It is clear from the permit materials that they are not using best technology on this wastewater and I have yet to see any analysis that would support the assertion there is no other place for this waste other than the beautiful Halfway Brook. The DEC officials in New Paltz and DRBC officials in West Trenton aren't the ones going to be swimming in, fishing in, and living next to or downstream from this facility, but the people of Eldred and Highland are and they deserve better than this proposal.

Riverkeeper’s letter to the DEC

Re:  DEC draft permit and tentative determination to approve application for a new SPDES permit (SPDES ID# NY0281239) to allow surface discharge of 17,000 gallons per day (gpd) of treated wastewater to Halfway Brook, class B(T) from a primary treatment plant for facility located at 1040 State Route 55, Town of Thompson, Sullivan County.

 

Dear Ms. Pawliczak,
The Delaware Riverkeeper Network received outreach from our members asking whether proposed SPDES NY0281239 for a new discharge of 17,000 gallons of wastewater to Halfway Brook was something to be concerned about.  We immediately started to investigate and believe that there is absolutely reason for concern.  The Delaware Riverkeeper Network urges that the proposed wastewater discharge be rejected, and instead the applicant should be required to consider, propose and pursue a non-discharge alternative that will be most protective of water quality in the Halfway Brook and most protective of the downstream communities who enjoy the many recreational and ecological values the stream provides.
Halfway Brook drains directly to Delaware River Basin Outstanding Basin Waters, also designated as an Upper Delaware Scenic and Recreational River.  Outstanding Basin Waters are those waterways with the most pristine quality in the Delaware River Basin and as a result have the highest level of antidegradation protection available in the Delaware River Basin Commission’s Special Protection Waters Program.  The Delaware River has these designations because of its high water quality and outstanding scenic and recreational values.  The ongoing quality and beauty of this stretch of River is directly dictated by the health of the tributaries that feed it.  Harmful impacts to the Halfway Brook will have implications for the outstanding water quality, scenic, and recreational values of the Delaware River – a stretch of river vital for supporting fishing, swimming and boating, essential to the residential and recreational communities of this stretch of the mainstem Delaware River.
Halfway Brook itself has outstanding water quality, with low nutrient concentrations and low fecal bacteria levels1.  Its relatively pristine water quality and cold water temperatures make it an excellent trout stream, with both resident and stocked trout populations.  Yet the high water quality also means the stream has very little buffering capacity (median alkalinity of only 9 mg/L in DRBC’s water quality monitoring), with little ability to accept and process point source loads of nutrients, BOD, and salts without impacting the water quality and the best uses of the stream and its associated lakes and wetlands.
As a Class B(T) stream under NYSDEC water quality classification and standards, Halfway Brook’s best uses include primary contact recreation.  Local residents indeed use Halfway Brook for swimming and recreation, necessitating measures that protect public health and safety, including strict disinfection requirements on point source discharges and viability analyses for non-discharge alternatives for treated wastewater. 
The proposed wastewater treatment plant will serve redevelopment of a motel, restaurant, and bar including a 4,000-square-foot (sq. ft.) restaurant and bar, 28 lodging units in nine buildings, and a 2,400-sq. ft. event space.  The proposal would allow the discharge of 17,000 gallons per day (gpd) of wastewater to the very headwaters of the Halfway Brook.  The draft permit materials identify the proposed wastewater facility as one that provides only primary treatment, which is in and of itself concerning. The headwaters of any stream, particularly one of such high quality as Halfway Brook, are particularly important for ensuring waterway health down its entire length.  17,000 gpd of wastewater into the headwaters of the Halfway Brook, a small stream with such high quality that is particularly vulnerable to the discharge proposed, makes no sense.  A large scale, well-functioning, septic system or other non-direct discharge strategy is far preferable to the direct discharge of additional flow and pollution to this sensitive stream of such importance to the region’s quality and health.  
In addition, there are adjacent wetlands that will be impacted.  Wetlands provide important water quality and stream health benefits that will also be compromised by the proposed actions/activities, further compounding the harm to this high quality stream and the downstream Outstanding Basin Waters of the Delaware River system.  
It is worthy of note that this redevelopment is presumably proposed because of the high quality stream and nature of the region – and yet it is proposing to inflict harm to these very same resources.    It is wrong to sacrifice the very nature that is what attracts businesses of this kind.
The proposed wastewater primary treatment facility would offer inadequate treatment of the resulting the wastewater flows and will not properly protect the Halfway Brook ecosystem, the residents living along Halfway Brook, the regulated wetlands downstream (HL-36), Sidwell Lake, or the Delaware River.  Nutrient and BOD limits, for instance, are far higher than can be routinely attained in 2019 and represent antiquated 1970s technology that needs to be updated for a pristine and sensitive ecological system such as Halfway Brook.  Despite primary contact recreation use and protections for Halfway Brook, disinfection requirements would only apply seasonally from May 1 to October 31 each year and would use chlorine-based disinfection instead of more advanced techniques (e.g., ultraviolet disinfection).  Because recreational use extends outside this seasonal window (e.g., trout season starts on April 1st), and because of the potential for lingering exposure to pathogens in waters with seasonal disinfection, Halfway Brook and the residents who live along and use the stream would benefit from, and should be entitled to,  more rigorous wastewater treatment requirements and more relevant current technologies.  Like nutrients and pathogens, and given the well-recognized salinization of freshwater systems (particularly strong in New York state), including those in DRBC’s Special Protection Waters as documented by DRBCs own recent analyses, the 1000 mg/L TDS (total dissolved solids) limit likewise is inappropriate and provides too little protection for the Halfway Brook stream and watershed.  The extensive lake and wetland ecosystems downstream of this proposed treatment plant create an even more urgent need to use 21st century technology in order to avoid eutrophication of these aquatic ecosystems and the loss of both recreational uses and aquatic life uses that would result.  It is clear that improved treatment of this wastewater is possible, and the sensitive and relatively pristine nature of Halfway Brook and the entire aquatic ecosystem provide the clear need to adopt and implement the improved treatment possibilities. 
An investment in the redevelopment in this property must also invest in clean water and appropriate environmental technologies for both the stream and for the residents downstream of this facility.  Non-discharge alternatives need to be fully and carefully evaluated, including hybrid systems that discharge to ground during warmer seasons when soils have greater ability to accept and treat wastewater flows.  For any surface water discharge, numerous advanced technologies should be evaluated, from improved nutrient removal to extended advanced disinfection to more restrictive salt and TDS limits for any ground or surface water discharge.  The existing high water quality of Halfway Brook, its restrictive state and DRBC regulatory protections, and the dependence by the local community on the myriad of best uses provided by this stream necessitate using the best and most protective approaches for treating, reusing, and ultimately releasing wastewater flows back into this valued and sensitive ecological system.
Respectfully,
Maya K. van Rossum the Delaware Riverkeeper

 

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