At the same time Save the Sound and Soundkeeper were preparing a lawsuit against Rye, ten other Westchester communities, and Westchester County for violations of the US Clean Water Act…
By Bill Lawyer
At the same time Save the Sound and Soundkeeper were preparing a lawsuit against Rye, ten other Westchester communities, and Westchester County for violations of the US Clean Water Act, the County was moving forward with a multi-million dollar project to repair and replace aging sewer pipes that connect Playland and the northeast end of Rye Town Park to the Blind Brook Wastewater Treatment system.
Now, when it comes to sewers, or any kinds of infrastructure, it is often the case that two principles apply: “Out of sight, out of mind,” and “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.
Until recently, even Con Ed had no policy for systematically replacing old pipes until someone reported a problem. In recent years, however, the County and Rye Town Park sewer pipes, which were installed back when Playland first opened in 1928, have become “in sight,” and seriously broken.
The Playland system involved wastewater pipes collecting sewage from all over the park, then directing it to a “trunk” line that was located directly underneath the historic bath houses. Ironically, the first indication of a broken sewer pipe in the trunk line was not discovered until the two bathhouses had been completely renovated, at a cost of nearly $9 million.
It was only after the Westchester Children’s Museum started using the space that the obnoxious odor began to tell the Museum’s staff that something was the matter.
At the same time, similar problems were being experienced at Rye Town Park’s toilets at the north end of the park — which were part of the same system.
While many things can cause sewer pipe breaks, in this case, according to the County Planning Department, “the aging 12-inch sewer line has developed tuberculation which restricts flow and capacity…” resulting in pipe breakage.
Rather than merely fixing the broken pipes, the County Department of Environmental Facilities recommended that the entire system be re-routed from out of the bathhouses to the parking lot, so that the system will be much more accessible for inspection and maintenance.
The County Executive recommended to the County Legislature that it approve a bond act in the amount of $3.2 million to finance the project known as SBB85 — Sewer System Rehabilitation — Blind Brook Sanitary Sewer District.
In the County’s completed Full Environmental Assessment Form, submitted in June, the project is described as follows:
Sanitary sewer connections from the City of Rye all combine in the 12-inch diameter sewer just outside or within the building envelope of the Playland bathhouse. The location of the sewer beneath the bathhouse floor makes the sewer difficult to access and maintain, and past repairs have required breaking up the concrete slab of the building and building alterations. The County desires to relocate the sanitary sewer to mitigate the risk of building issues due to the sewer system and facilitate ongoing maintenance of the system. This project relocates the consolidation points for area sewers from within the bathhouse building, up to Rye Beach Avenue. This will entail eight new manholes, approximately 1,370 linear feet of conveyance pipe of which approximately 230 linear feet will be installed in Rye Town Park…. And bypass pumping during construction.
The project funding also includes funds to use a variety of techniques, including remotely controlled cameras, to identify and repair any existing but previously undetected leaks in the Blind Brook Sanitary Sewer District.
An example of this was the 2014 mid-summer break in very old sewer pipe that ran under the bed of the Blind Brook just downstream from the footbridge crossing by the Milton/Purdy cemeteries. The pipe was transporting raw sewage from the Milton Road trunk line to treatment plant on the other side of Disbrow fields.
Due to the changing tides, it took several days to repair the pipe, and all the club beaches at Milton Point had to be closed to swimming.
And more recently, numerous residents have noticed large numbers of dead fish on the Blind Brook streambed during low tides.
The hope is that the County’s planned proactive approach to replacing aging pipes before they become serious problems will result in better water quality and a healthier environment.