Hurricane Damage Demonstrates Infrastructure Needs

Cold Spring Village Board assesses impact 

By Liz Schevtchuk Armstrong

Hurricane Irene swept the ongoing issue of infrastructure needs back onto the agenda at the Cold Spring Village Board last Tuesday, Sept. 14,  when the mayor and trustees discussed the problems the storm caused for water and sewer systems as well as residents. Heavy rains not only forced excess storm water to spurt from manhole covers near the Hudson River waterfront and exacerbated minor leakage to the Upper Dam spillway several miles away, but flooded part of the Lower Main Street area, including a pump station, and caused Back Brook to overflow along Cedar Street. Altogether, about 20 homes in the village suffered varying degrees of damage from Irene, Mayor Seth Gallagher and Trustee Bruce Campbell stated. Water and Sewer Superintendent Gregory Phillips also described the toll to water and sewer systems, as well as successes in continued operations despite the challenges. CLICK HERE FOR A VIDEO OF FLOODING.

The Aug. 28 storm “had a significant impact on theWest Streetpump station and main treatment facility onFair Street,” Phillips told the board at its formal monthly session. Although the station pumps continued to work for three hours, they subsequently shut down and a control panel installed last April also was partly submerged, Phillips said. Cold Spring Fire Company No. 1 pumped out the station that afternoon. Because of the problems, the department brought in a portable pump and “redirected the rain and flood-laden flow directly to theHudson River,” about 72,000 gallons, Phillips said. “It was either going to be there or in somebody’s living room. We made sure the DEC [New York State Department of Environmental Conservation] knew about it.” During the surge, water “was just perking up and out” of the manhole lids, he said. At theFair Streetplant, power died, requiring use of a generator and other temporary equipment, including the portable pump “to handle the excessive incoming flow. I camped out in the truck” all night, Phillips said, “refueling the gas-powered pump as needed.”

A bubbling West Street manhole Aug. 28

Mayor Gallagher pointed out that despite the flooding and strains on the system, “we did not actually have discharge from the sewage treatment plant” into the river, a problem in the past during storms.

Phillips also said that the clean-water facility on Fishkill Road “performed very well, throughout the hurricane.” He noted that a water turbidity, or clearness measure, normally produces a reading of 2 units but that with the storm “we saw a spike to 49 units of turbidity.” Overall, according to Phillips, the Upper Dam, on the Upper Reservoir in North Highlands, “showed the most impact, as the spillway cap that had been leaking worsened a little.” However, recent upgrading through installation of rip-rap to the spot “where the seepage had been landing and eroding, has held up well, showing no degradation,” he said.

Phillips praised the work of Scott Monroe, assistant wastewater operator; Bart Clark, engineer; the fire company, and Andrew Pidala, of Pidala Electric, who investigated the situation at theWest Street pump house and dried out the electrical conditions, and also helped with theFair Streetplant. Without their involvement, “we wouldn’t have made it through the crisis as well as we did,” Phillips said. The mayor in turn commended Phillips for the “great job.” As the storm let up, “things slowly but surely started to get back to normalcy,” Phillips said. “We just keep plugging. There’s plenty to do – always interesting!”

Back Brook at Cedar Street this week

Back Brook
Discussing the damage to individual homes from high water, Gallagher said that not only did basements flood, but there were “houses where it had reached the first floor,” damaging furniture and possessions. With Back Brook “there was kind of a bowl effect. Water collected there.â” The brook runs from the Nelsonville woods, where it’s about 4-feet wide when full and is channeled underground into a pipe at Cedar Street. It emerges a couple of blocks to the southwest, slips underground at Chestnut and Main Streets, appears anew between Church and Garden Streets, proceeds northwest past the Spring Brook apartments, and goes underground once more before entering the Hudson at the edge of the village. Campbell, who oversaw the response to the hurricane while Gallagher was in Ireland, later said that “when we get storms of that magnitude, the amount of water off of the mountain is too much for the basin on the side of the Ambulance Corps in the woods near Cedar Street. In the case of the most recent storm, the volume of water exceeded the 12-inch drain pipe.  This will have to be discussed in the near future as to any possible solution. It has been an on-going problem for years, but I don’t know if anyone ever looked into a reasonable, cost-effective solution.” CLICK HERE FOR A VIDEO OF BACK BROOK.

First quarter financial review
Village Accountant Ellen Mageean delivered the first-quarter financial overview, observing that so far, revenue is projected to run $11,471 above expectations but that, as she warned a month ago, unforeseen increases in outlays for the employee retirement program, part of the New York State system, loom. For the 2011-12 fiscal year, which began June 1, the village budgeted $45,000 for general employee retirement and $31,500 for the fire-police retirement but now faces charges of $61,550 and $37,527, respectively. “We know we’re going to have to cut back in other areas,” the mayor said, suggesting that such projects as street paving and recreation improvements might be postponed. “Even tonight we could probably come up with $30,000 worth of stuff we’re not going to do.” However, he said, the board will review options over the next few weeks to determine how to proceed. One way or another, he pledged, “by the end of the year we’ll definitely be on budget.”

Trustee Airinhos Serradas reported that, along with Campbell, he is meeting with insurers to find ways to reduce the costs of employee benefits, working with employees as well. “I’m trying to dispel myths” the trustee said. He described the current package as the “Cadillac” plan and stuck to that description when Gallagher suggested it was an exaggeration. “I think we need to embrace it; it is what it is,” he said of the term. “It is an expensive plan.”

Dark Skies lighting an a new-old vehicle
In other business, the mayor said that the bollard “dark skies” lights have been installed at the waterfront. “Now that they’re in, it”s worth taking a second look,” he recommended. “See what you think. The village could use more bollards and save money on some of the taller, less efficient lights,” he said.

The building inspector’s report revealed “with great pride” that the village obtained transfer of a used vehicle from Putnam County for Building Department purposes.
Photos by L.S. Armstrong

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