Oswego Council To Consider Deal With EPA, DEC

OSWEGO, NY – At its meeting Monday night, the Administrative Services Committee approved a request by the Gay Williams, city attorney, to authorize the mayor to sign a consent decree proposed by the Environmental Protection Agency and the State of New York Department of Environmental Conservation.

The EPA and DEC have commenced an enforcement proceeding against the city with respect to alleged violations of the Federal Clean Water Act resulting from unpermitted overflows from the city’s sanitary and combined sewer systems, Williams said.

The city, through its representatives, has negotiated a settlement with the EPA and DEC, the terms of which are set forth in a proposed consent decree that has been previously distributed to the council, she continued.

According to Williams, the proposed decree provides for relief from certain interest payments if the decree is executed by the mayor on or before March 16.

Once it has been signed by the mayor and the appropriate representatives of the EPA and DEC, the decree will need to be filed with the Federal District Court and the court has to review it.

Upon approval by the court, the decree will be lodged “at which time it will become not only an agreement between the city, the EPA and DEC, but also a court order that is binding on the city,” Williams pointed out.

Councilor Connie Cosemento asked would there consequences if the city doesn’t abide by the court order?

The city has been in non-compliance for many years with unpermitted overflows into the river and into the lake, the attorney said.

“As a result (of continued overflows), we could be fined as much as $37,500 per overflow for all those years and it could mean tens of millions of dollars,” Williams said. “Over the last three years, we have been negotiating with them to minimize the impact on the city or the amount of work that needs to be done (to correct the problem) and to spread out the time period to do the work so the city will be able to get some grant funds and be able to borrow sufficient funds in order to afford to get the work done.”

The city has a schedule of corrective work starting this year going all the way out to 2022.

“It needs to be done,” she stressed. “There are penalties if we don’t do as we have agreed to.”

Tony Leotta, city engineer, requested authorization for the purchasing agent to seek bids for the West Side Sewer Separation Rehabilitation and Separation Aerial Photography, GPS Photo Control Survey and Topographic Mapping Project.

The rehabilitation projects included in the consent decree will require aerial photography and topographic mapping for preparation of plans and specifications for several projects, Leotta explained.

“The cost estimate for the mapping is approximately $250,000. Information derived from the topographic mapping would also be used for grant applications, zoning and site plans,” he added. “It’s a primary investment.”

It is time sensitive; it has to be flown before the leaves come out, Leotta continued.

“We’re very handicapped by not having (the mapping) for the west side,” Leotta said. “So, this is a prime opportunity to secure that information.”

“This kind of information will help everybody to do their job. It’ll take time off of projects where now we have to send people out to survey and do the graphic work etc. This takes and puts it all on a computer,” Council Ron Kaplewicz said. “There are many, many other applications for this beyond the west side sewage treatment plant.”

The concern, he said, is how does the city pay the quarter of a million dollars.

“We have a unique opportunity here because of the situation that we have with the west side sewage treatment plant to incorporate some of these funds into some of the requests that we’re making,” he said. “And, if we can do that, this is in my opinion, a very prudent thing to do.”

The full council will consider both resolutions at its meeting March 8.