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FEMA fails to hear Town’s pleas

February 6th, 2013

In August of 2011, the town of Newburgh had begun construction on a new water treatment plant on Latintown Road when Hurricane Irene slammed into the Hudson Valley.

A tributary of the Hudson River passed through the site, cutting across the access driveway and running along the side of a new stormwater management pond. High flows during Irene adversely altered the site and the town incurred approximately $90,000 in costs to restore the site to its original condition.

The town applied to FEMA for assistance but was turned down because FEMA determined (incorrectly) that the costs were covered either by the contractor’s insurance or the Town’s insurance. Documentation refuting the determination was submitted to FEMA, but that agency has yet to revisit its decision.

Irene also did considerable damage to the town’s Manganese Treatment System media.

As a result of the high flows of Irene, an unprecedented organic contaminant load was delivered to Chadwick Lake Reservoir resulting in the bio-fouling of both the sand filters and manganese filters at the Chadwick Lake Filter Plant.

Extensive documentation was submitted demonstrating the direct impact of the storm on the town’s treatment processes and a draft PW (project work order) was written pending one last piece of cost analysis documentation by the Town. A draft PW was prepared pending the submittal of this last piece of documentation, but the town has never received the final PW.

The estimated cost of this claim is $98,000.

Keep in mind that Irene occurred in August 2011.

A month later, on Sept. 3, 2011, Tropical Storm Lee sent excessive flows into three of the town’s sewage pumping stations, overwhelming the pump capacities and threatening to cause overflows of raw sewage into local receiving waters.

The town engaged tanker trucks to augment the pumping capacity of the stations to prevent this from occurring. Similar costs were covered for Hurricane Irene, but a PW was never received for the same circumstances during Tropical Storm Lee.

Cost for outside contractors was $23,605. The total of the three claims exceeds $211,000.

Town of Newburgh Engineer James Osborne has corresponded with Chris Holmes at the New York State Office of Emergency Management on several occasions. Osborne’s latest communication, dated Dec. 14, 2012, is stated above.

In conclusion, Osborne asks Holmes for “acknowledgement of these outstanding claims… and says he would like them resolved in a timely manner.”

This past week, during a Town Board meeting on Jan. 30, Councilman George Woolsey Sr. suggested that “somebody has to go after this money.”

When Osborne said that he had, indeed, “gone after” the money, he said that he has sought a meeting with FEMA officials but “hasn’t been able to get a date.”

“I just want a decision,” Woolsey said.

“Maybe we should pursue our U.S. senators,” Councilwoman Elizabeth Greene said. “They [FEMA] have to think about us middle of the state people, too,” she said.

Osborne said he would follow up his earlier letters with new correspondence in an effort to prod FEMA into answering the town’s pleas.

By ALLAN GAUL
agaul@tcnewspapers.com

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