WAWARSING – The observable connection between the leaking Delaware Aqueduct and the floods plaguing over 30 homes is becoming more evident, if the recent fluctuations of homeowners' wells are anything to go by. The connection has become so seemingly strong that State Senator John Bonacic has proposed legislation to allocate close to $4 million of the state's money to offer voluntary buyouts to homeowners who believe the constant flooding of their houses are being caused by the leaks.
"The city, in my view, is liable for damaging these peoples' homes," said Senator Bonacic in a press release published by his office on Monday. "The physical and emotional damage inflicted on these individuals is substantial. No governmental entity should allow its property to leak millions of gallons of water a day into our ground."
The funding comes from $15 million in funds that were allocated by the state as part of the Greater Catskills Flood Relief Program, established in 2008, to allow counties within the region to purchase homes that have been damaged consistently by flooding since 2004 and are deemed to be at future risk. According to the program's website, "Homes purchased would be condemned and property will be dedicated for open space, recreational, wetlands, or flood mitigation purposes."
To qualify for a buyout under the proposal, the home would have to be within two miles of the aqueduct within the affected area within the Hamlet of Wawarsing, to have experienced water seepage or flooding, and to be valued at less than $250,000. The property would then become owned by the county, "dedicated and maintained in perpetuity for a use that is compatible with open space, recreational, flood mitigation or wetlands management practices," says the Greater Catskills Flood Relief Program's website.
The news of the proposed legislation comes just as the aqueduct, which leaks somewhere between 13 and 35 million gallons a day, was re-flooded this past weekend after repair work had required it to be de-watered. The Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) — the New York City organization that maintains the aqueduct that provides the city with nearly half its water supply — shut down the tunnel on Thursday, November 5 while work was being done. When asked just what that work was, however, Mercedes Padilla, a spokesperson for the DEP, was unable to elaborate: "This is all part of the preparation work to fix the Delaware Aqueduct," wrote Padilla in an e-mail.
"In terms of the legislation from the State Senator, we are looking at it," concludes the e-mail.
Currently, there is a study being conducted by the United States Geological Survey (USGS), analyzing the possible links between the tunnel and the flooding. The studies done by DEP or funded by the organization have been going on for over a year, and USGS has yet to report any conclusive evidence linking the tunnel to the floods. However, the correlation between the most recent shut-down and the fluctuations in the homeowners' wells has been enough for many to see definite causation.
Ed Gordon, a New Jersey resident who owns a summer home on Foordmore Road, has had to constantly pump excess water from his overflowing well via pipes running across his lawn to a culvert in front of his property. During this recent shut down, the pipes were empty, the normally stream-like culvert dry. Since the tunnel was reactivated, however, the excess water has begun to flow once again.
"It is getting steadily worse," said Mike Rosselli, a resident of Kagan Lane, whose well dropped 12 feet when the tunnel was de-watered. The level rose back to its usual level — overflowing — within hours after the tunnel's reactivation.
When asked if he would consider having the state buyout his home, Rosselli said, "I would be considering an offer, as long as it's not an insult. This is home; we've been here over 25 years."