Tuesday, December 28, 2004

United against filter plant

Subject: NY Daily News article on lawsuits against DEP's plant
Date: 28-Dec-04 16:23:58 Eastern Standard Time
From: MarianR451

New York Daily News - http://www.nydailynews.com

United against filter plant
Tuesday, December 28th, 2004

The tap is running dry for legal challenges to the filtration plant the city plans to build at Van Cortlandt Park, even as opponents have opted to pool their efforts.

Though their arguments are different, last week the plaintiffs in the three remaining lawsuits agreed to the city's motion to consolidate their cases in Queens Supreme Court.

The Croton Watershed Clean Water Coalition, Bronx Environmental Health and Justice and the Town of Eastchester will now all plead their cases in a Queens courtroom to Justice James Dollard.

The move comes a week after a Manhattan judge threw out a suit by Friends of Van Cortlandt Park that alleged the city violated its own zoning rules in appropriating parkland for an industrial facility.

The suit filed by Bronx Environmental Health and Justice complains that the Environmental Impact Study conducted by the city Department of Environmental Protection falsely downplayed the impact on the local community by evaluating a much smaller area of effect around the Van Cortlandt site than it examined around a rival site in the Town of Eastchester.

But Eastchester is also suing to keep the DEP from building the filtration plant in the Bronx - because local leaders actually want the massive facility in their own back yard.

The town's suit relies on similar grounds to the Bronx group's challenge, but Eastchester Town Attorney John Sarcone criticizes the DEP's environmental study from the other end.

"We maintain that the DEP failed to look closely at the effects this plant would have on Eastchester," he said, noting that it would reduce the need for the town's own water utility to expand a water-treatment facility in a more crowded part of the town.

The Croton Watershed Clean Water Coalition is suing to block the DEP's current plan on the ground that it's not current enough, ignoring new "membrane filtration" technology that could shrink the proposed 8-acre filtration plant to less than 1 acre, dramatically expanding the city's placement options.

"The city did look at that technology years ago," said DEP spokesman Charles Sturcken.

But that's precisely the problem, says Jim Bacon, the attorney for the Croton Watershed Clean Water Coalition.

"The city admits that in the past five years they haven't looked at any new technology," Bacon said. "And [membrane] technology has revolutionized in the past five years."

The city is under federal mandate to build the filtration plant and is already racking up huge fines after years of delays. After beginning the process more than a decade ago, the DEP now hopes to have the facility online by 2011.

Pollard has yet to set a hearing date for the consolidated lawsuits.

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