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Ancram neighbors complain about septage disposal site

ANCRAM—Neighbors of Sawchuk Road property where septage is spread on the land allege improper disposal practices.

The man in charge of the septage spreading says the neighbors are doing their own spreading—of misinformation about his operation.

The neighbors have reported their concerns to the state Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) and Ancram’s Conservation Advisory Council (CAC).

DEC officials have recently been to the Sawchuk Road site. Leo Flood is the acting president of Flood’s Spraying and Sanitation Service, a business based in Millerton in Dutchess County, which has a DEC-issued registration to legally spread septage, defined as excrement and other waste material contained in or removed from a septic tank.

The DEC registration, which must be obtained by small operations as opposed to a permit for larger operations, comes with a list of terms and conditions for the proper handling and disposal of the waste. The registration authorizes Flood’s Spraying and Sanitation to apply 804,400 gallons of residential septic waste to the Sawchuk Road site annually. Land spreading of septage registrations must be renewed every five years.

Mr. Flood is in the process of renewing the DEC registration, previously held by his father, Thomas Flood.

The Floods own the Sawchuk Road farmland, about 55 acres, where the septage is spread.

Asked what was determined by their recent inspection(s) the DEC replied by email: “Flood Spraying and Sanitation has submitted a timely application for renewal of its registration to land spread septage. The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation is rigorously reviewing all aspects of this operation as part of the agency’s assessment of this renewal application, which includes site inspections. If any violations are found, DEC will take appropriate enforcement action.”

Sawchuk Road residents brought up their complaints at a recent meeting, where the town’s Comprehensive Plan was under review. Sawchuk Road is located near the Columbia/Dutchess county line on Winchell Mountain.

At the May 17 Ancram Town Board meeting, Jamie Purinton, chair of the CAC, spoke about the advisory council’s memorandum regarding the Sawchuk Road septage disposal complaint follow-up and recommendations.

The CAC memo says the neighbors’ “complaints include the possible consequences of longstanding mis-use of the site including:

Possible chronic illegal dumping practices

Possible overuse of the site for dumping including use of seasonally restricted winter dumping lagoons during the growing season and more trucks dumping than allowed

Possible non-compliance of lagoon maintenance and design

Possible non-compliance with DEC and Department of Health relevant permitting and regulations—including inconsistent plowing under of non-filtered, spread septage that retains solid paper waste

Possible non-compliant dumping of portable toilet waste that includes chemicals used in portable toilets and solid paper waste not permitted for field dumping

Inconsistent attention by the DEC to these compliance and permitting issues

Resulting environmental contamination of adjacent waterways and soils due to run-off of improperly managed dumped materials

Nuisance septic smells and noise from truck traffic during non-business hours.”

Based on study of the Ancram Natural Resources Conservation Plan, DEC maps, Trout Unlimited references, the CAC identified potential environmental impact issues relevant to this site.

These include: soils that are moderately to excessively drained therefore promoting high seep-through of the toxic dumped materials into adjacent soils and waterways; steep slopes on the dump site promoting rampant erosion and run-off of the dumped material, especially during rains; a stream that drains into adjacent wetlands and is a trout-spawning stream that could be contaminated; farmland of statewide importance and significant biodiversity areas.

These important potential environmental impacts warrant immediate further investigation by the Town Board into the veracity of the neighbors’ complaints,” said the memo.

Suggested actions include: contacting DEC about the timeliness of inspection, legality and compliance with historic and current required permitting and dumping practices.

The memo also suggests contacting the Department of Health about the legality of current dumping practices, compliance with any required permitting and issues regarding smells and toxic waste matter remaining on the site; and contacting Trout Unlimited for further testing and monitoring of the trout spawning stream on the property and the testing of stream water on adjacent property for E. coli levels, toxic chemicals, and the usual nitrogen and phosphorus levels.

Reached by phone this week, Mr. Flood characterized the situation with the neighbors as “old resentment” and “motivated by money.” He noted he would someday inherit the land on which he spreads the septage. “Why would I contaminate my own land?” he asked.

Mr. Flood said his family’s business has been around since 1928, and started out whitewashing barns before branching out into sanitation. The DEC inspects the site regularly and the operation has “never had a violation for contamination.”

Yet there have been violations. Based on a filing under the Freedom of Information Law, The Columbia Paper received records of three prior violations and civil penalties imposed by the DEC between March 1991 ($2,000 and an order to follow a schedule of compliance) and June 2008 for a violation citing the operation for applying septic waste to frozen ground and imposing a $3,000 fine.

Mr. Flood said “a violation is equivalent to traffic ticket” adding, “it would be different if we were discharging nuclear waste into a mine shaft.”

To contact Diane Valden email dvalden@columbiapaper.com

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