As raw sewage continues to leak from pipes in Mount Vernon and polluting local waterways, the city has now been sued for the second time in two years for allegedly violating the Clean Water Act.
Though Mount Vernon is part of Westchester County, the sewage from the pipes has heavily polluted the Hutchinson River, which flows into City Island, Eastchester Bay and other parts of the Bronx. In fact, regional nonprofit organization Save the Sound released results of its “2020 Long Island Sound Report Card,” where it gave the Eastchester Bay an F grade.
While Mount Vernon Mayor Shawyn Patterson-Howard just began in January, activists like the Hutchinson River Restoration Project, City Island Oyster Reef Project, City Island Rising and Save the Sound and elected officials like Senator Alessandra Biaggi are doing their best to help.
“There is a commitment among all of us to work on this issue,” Biaggi said to the Bronx Times.
Biaggi explained that this is not something that can be fixed overnight. When she was elected to office in 2018, City Island residents brought this to her attention and she has met with them and the mayor on more than one occasion.
According to Biaggi, this is an extremely important issue but the problem is COVID-19 has put many things on the back-burner and caused a huge budget deficit.
In fact prior to the pandemic, the $3 billion Mother Nature Bond Act, had $550 million allocated for water quality improvement. If and when this money is made available, it could put a huge dent in fixing the pipes in Mount Vernon, she explained.
“The Mother Nature Bond Act is probably not the only avenue, but it’s a big one,” Biaggi said. “The project is so intensive and it is going to require an investment.”
City Island resident Barbara Zahm sits on the boards of the Hutchinson River Restoration Project and on the Oyster Project. Zahm said she was not surprised the issue has not been resolved because of the amount of money involved.
Zahm and other activists have asked for another meeting with Biaggi.
“There’s a large movement and concern about people who care about our waterways,” she said.
City Island Rising President John Doyle shared Zahm’s and Biaggi’s sentiments. Doyle hoped Biaggi along with Assemblyman Michael Benedetto can work with Mount Vernon and get the funding needed to fix the pipes.
He is hopeful that a second lawsuit will finally get the ball rolling in the right direction.
“It’s a very damaging effect on the Hutchinson River and Long Island Sound,” Doyle said. “We hope Mount Vernon and the city starts to take this seriously.”
Doyle noted that if the Trump administration, which has has often shown no regard for the environment, sued Mount Vernon, then there must be a serious issue.
“If this was any other borough it would not be acceptable,” Doyle stressed. “People swim in these waters from Locust Point to Silver Beach, from Throggs Neck to City Island.”