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Westchester Water Quality Problems: Take Survey PDF Print Email


By Tracy Brown, Director, Save the Sound and Lisa Giuffra Diaz, Managing Partner, Turf Advisory

Sep. 26, 2018:  Like that of many counties in the U.S., the Westchester sewer system was constructed almost 100 years ago and is desperately in need of modernization. For decades, the sewer lines that run under Westchester streets and lawns have been leaking raw sewage into our waterways, causing low oxygen levels, high fecal bacteria levels, and long-term harm to local waterways, including Long Island Sound and the Hudson. There is a pressing problem that needs to be addressed.

To better engage residents in solutions, Save the Sound and the Nature Conservancy are conducting a survey to better understand residents' attitudes about water. Share your opinion. Complete this five-minute survey on water and you’ll be eligible to win a $50 gift card.

The Westchester Water Challenge

Because of insufficient maintenance and repair, our sewage system suffers from high levels of leakage and lack of modern sewer catchment, which results in sanitary sewer overflows, combined sewer overflows, partial treatment at county wastewater treatment plants, and the unnecessary treatment of rainwater.

To make matters worse, there are certain municipalities, including the City of Mount Vernon, that are facing consent orders from the EPA and the Department of Justice for failure to address sewage overflow into the Hutchison and Bronx Rivers since 2003--a blatant violation of the federal Clean Water Act.

Westchester communities are among the wealthiest in the nation; however, local water quality is seriously degraded, receiving a C- in the latest Long Island Sound water quality report card. Save the Sound’s water quality monitoring program has been documenting significant bacterial pollution in Westchester waters since 2013, confirming what the state and federal governments already know--local waterways are chronically polluted with fecal bacteria.  

The Cost of Resolution

According to the EPA and the Department of Health, repairing and sufficiently upgrading Westchester’s sewage collection infrastructure, including pumps and pipes, will cost approximately $600 million. Avoiding proactive maintenance and responding only to system failures, the typical approach our municipalities take increases that cost and exposes residents to disease-causing pathogens, representing a serious health hazard to Westchester residents. 

The time is ripe to explore public-private partnerships ("P3"s) for the operations and maintenance of our sewage infrastructure. This would offer an opportunity to create a fully-integrated countywide system similar to the successful approach used in Nassau County, where a private business now operates the county’s wastewater treatment system under a 20-year contract. The projected savings for Nassau County residents is $158 million.  

A public-private partnership would also provide an opportunity to implement modern water management systems, including the use of sensors that monitor quality of water, assess the condition of pipes, and reduce maintenance costs by embracing conditioned-based maintenance and sensor enhanced catchments. Modern sensor-enabled sewers are able to quickly identify issues that can be addressed before sewage overflows or backups occur. Moreover, wider implementation of innovative green solutions, including stormwater capture parks, pervious pavement, and green rooftop gardens, could reduce rain-triggered sewage overflows, improving local water quality as well as the quality of life for Westchester residents.

Possible Public-Private Partnerships Solutions

As a first step toward taking advantage of the synergies of centralized planning, procurement, and operations among the 47 districts in Westchester, a joint powers authority ("JPA") could be created to provide wastewater services to municipalities throughout the county potentially under the leadership of the office of the county executive. Once formed, a Westchester JPA could enter into a P3 to design, build, finance, operate, and maintain the facilities. 

Unquestionably, convincing both the political leaders and citizens of the 47 different municipalities of Westchester to form a combined Westchester JPA would require a grassroots communications campaign that conveys the value of the centralized approach. 

Westchester has an existing network of citizens and organizations concerned about water quality, including Save the Sound, Sustainable Westchester, the Bronx River Alliance, the Hutchinson River Restoration Project, Riverkeeper, and Federated Conservationists of Westchester, among others, who appreciate the importance of investing in water infrastructure. We hope this survey will help foster a conversation on how to best solve Westchester’s water challenges. 

Thank you for your participation in the water survey:

Photo by A. Warner

Editor's note: As a public service, MyhometownBronxville publishes articles from local institutions, officeholders, and individuals. MyhometownBronxville does not fact-check statements therein, and any opinions expressed therein do not necessarily reflect the thinking of its staff.


Village Capital Projects Include Police Body Cameras, Tennis Facility Repairs, More Teardrop Street Lighting, and Sagamore Park Improvements

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By Carol P. Bartold, Senior Reporter May 22, 2019: The Bronxville Board of Trustees, at its regular meeting on May 13, addressed the approval of capital projects and the...

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Bronxville Overview

Bronxville Overview

Bronxville is a quaint village (one square mile) located just 16 miles north of midtown Manhattan (roughly 30 minutes on the train) and has a population of approximately 6,500. It is known as a premier community with an excellent public school (K-12) and easy access to Manhattan. Bronxville offers many amenities including an attractive business district, a hospital (Lawrence Hospital), public paddle and tennis courts, fine dining at local restaurants, two private country clubs and a community library.

While the earliest settlers of Bronxville date back to the first half of the 18th century, the history of the modern suburb of Bronxville began in 1890 when William Van Duzer Lawrence purchased a farm and commissioned the architect, William A. Bates, to design a planned community of houses for well-known artists and professionals that became a thriving art colony. This community, now called Lawrence Park, is listed on the National register of Historic Places and many of the homes still have artists’ studios. A neighborhood association within Lawrence Park called “The Hilltop Association” keeps this heritage alive with art shows and other events for neighbors.

Bronxville offers many charming neighborhoods as well as a variety of living options for residents including single family homes, town houses, cooperatives and condominiums. One of the chief benefits of living in “the village” is that your children can attend the Bronxville School.

The Bronxville postal zone (10708, known as “Bronxville PO”) includes the village of Bronxville as well as the Chester Heights section of Eastchester, parts of Tuckahoe and the Lawrence Park West, Cedar Knolls, Armour Villa and Longvale sections of Yonkers. Many of these areas have their own distinct character. For instance, the Armour Villa section has many historic homes and even has its own newsletter called “The Villa Voice” which reports on neighborhood news.

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