The News 4 “toxic dirt” story swirled around Sloatsburg’s Village Hall Tuesday night, March 28, as the Village Board gathered for its last meeting in March.
Something about the breaking story did not make sense and Mayor Carl Wright said from the dais that he informed the Village Attorney to contact all possible parties who may have jurisdiction over the matter, including the offices of the NY Attorney General, State Comptroller, Rockland County Sewer District and Rockland County District Attorney’s Office, as well as any federal agencies that might have made funds available for the clean up project.
Mayor Wright said it was beyond belief that the Town of Ramapo was paid $400,000 up front of an $800,00 contract to clean up contaminated top soil and no work was ever done in some five years.
“We don’t want to hear excuses,” said Mayor Wright. “Nothing should threaten the safety and health of the public.”
By Wednesday afternoon Sarah Wallace of News 4, who broke the story, was back on the scene at Sloatsburg’s Community Fields with Mayor Wright and current Rockland County Sewer District #1 Chairman George Hoehmann, who is also Supervisor of the Town of Clarkstown.
All fingers were apparently being pointed at Town of Ramapo’s embattled Supervisor Christopher St. Lawrence for for responsibility for the escalating situation — St. Lawrence recently resigned as Sewer Commission chair and goes to trial in April for unrelated federal corruption charges.
The News 4 I-Team follow up report on Wednesday, March 29, on the apparent old oil and chip roadway dug up in Sloatsburg which was deemed contaminated. The Town of Ramapo contracted to clean the site up five years ago, was partially paid for the job but never did work.
The RC Sewer Commission has recently undergone a pairing down and reconstitution by the Rockland County Legislature and Executive in an attempt to make it more responsible and responsive to the communities’ it serves. Sloatsburg lost its Sewer Commission seat in that process.
The soil or dirt in question was apparently part of old buried roadway excavated during sewer work in the Sloatsburg neighborhood called the Flats, and is, essentially, a pre-asphalt oil and chip roadway compound dug up during sewer construction in that area.
The issue is that St. Lawrence had Ramapo bid for the clean up project from the RCSD some five years ago, was awarded the $800,000 job, paid $400,000 to begin work, and then the town failed to apparently do anything at the site — including notify Sloatsburg that there was contaminated soil dumped at its Community Fields. Some of the material has was also dumped in Hillburn and in unincorporated Ramapo just south of the Sloatsburg Community Fields.
Village Attorney Richard Ellsworth said that to his knowledge Sloatsburg has never received any notice from the town of Ramapo or sewer district related to soil samples or possible contamination of dirt at that site. Mayor Wright said that the village was repeatedly told by the town a number of scenarios related to the the material in question, mostly about its lack of removal due to plans for its reuse at other locations or for other possible projects.
The original breaking report by News 4 on Tuesday, March 28, that revealed the Town of Ramapo had contracted with the Rockland County Sewer District five years ago to clean up old dirt and asphalt deemed contaminated … but Ramapo failed to do any work.
Until the story broke on Tuesday, it appears no one on the Sewer Commission knew about the contamination contract either. The entire scenario was uncovered when Ramapo filed a letter of extension for the clean up project, along with a bill for the other $400,000 payment.
Rockland County legislator Charles Faciglia said to News 4 that the Ramapo request for a contract extension for the project though the end of 2017 “set off another question and another question, and people went out there and we couldn’t determine if any work was done. The work is not completed and it’s five years later. Was the work ever started? We need answers. We need an accounting.”
On Wednesday afternoon, March 29, the Rockland County Sewer District was on site at the Community Fields in Sloatsburg installing barriers to surround the dirt that sits at the southern end of the baseball field, with the flags of the new sewer plant flapping in the distance.