Torrey officials air waste water law issues

John Christensen

The December Torrey Town Board meeting was more widely attended than usual, filling the Dresden Firehouse to near capacity. The public hearing for a proposed law for septic systems was the cause. The issue that seemed foremost in many of the public comments was an overall sense that government has become too intrusive on individual rights.

Colby Petersen, of Yates County Soil & Water and the Torrey Board member who was chairing the hearing, began by expressing the intentions of the law, namely the protection of the water quality in Seneca Lake. He described having seen decaying septic tanks collapse, raw sewage on the surface, and cheater pipes still in use in some old systems

Dave Christiansen, a life-long Torrey resident and recently retired member of the Yates County Planning Board, said that 98 percent of people make sure that their systems are operating properly. He believes people should be able to live without the town, county, state, and federal governments and agencies “telling them what to do every time they turn around. If we give away our freedoms bit by bit, we lose our freedoms as Americans.”

Of particular cocernwas the section in the law that requires residents to admit the watershed inspector to their homes to inventory “bedrooms and bedroom equivalents,” to inspect plumbing, and to determine if appliances, toilets, and showers are high water demand fixtures. One resident said, “The sheriff or the state troopers can’t come in my house without a warrant.”

Bob Jensen said the biggest source of pollution was from the Keuka Lake Outlet and asked why something isn’t  done about the sewage run-off from Penn Yan when there is heavy rainfall. Jensen spoke of his long experience working on the Navy barge in Seneca Lake and how the water quality was fine out there while it consistently failed in the area around the Outlet.  He also wondered if most of the pollution isactually caused by agricultural run off.

Jensen’s comment was backed up by another resident who said that Seneca Lake would never be as clean as the other lakes because of its extreme depth and the fact that water remains there, rather than cycling out like Keuka. Planning Board Chair David Granzin responded, “So what’s your solution? Dump more in?”

Petersen was asked if these laws applied to residents in the village of Dresden as well.

Petersen answered no, saying that Dresden has its own zoning laws. Town Supervisor Patrick Flynn corrected him, saying that the law will apply to all residents of Dresden.

The law was designed around the guidelines set by The Keuka Watershed Improvement Committee, which have been adopted by the towns on Keuka and Canandaigua Lake, according to Petersen. One resident noted an exception. Torrey will apply the same rules to the whole town rather than just lakefront properties, albeit on 10-year inspection cycle rather than the five-year cycle for the lakefront zone.

When asked if other towns around Seneca Lake were adopting similar measures, Petersen said he did not know. Another resident asked if any provisions had been made for those on fixed incomes or of limited means to comply with the new inspections and mandated changes. Petersen said he wasn’t sure, but thought grants might be available.

In a later telephone interview, Petersen explained that the drafting of the law was initially begun by the Steep Slopes Committee; Jerry Rose, Mike Schnelle, Ron Kenville, and Jack Hessney, but dissolved before finishing it. It was then taken up by the planning board; David Granzin, Sam Selwood, Elaine Thiesmeyer, Jack Hessney, Floyd Hoover, and Linda Lefko. Petersen believes that all but one of the planning board members owns lakefront property.

As to the issue of the watershed inspector, the fact that one man currently serves as both that and code enforcement officer means he will have the de facto power to condemn properties based on the watershed codes.

Petersen estimates the new regulations will add at least 250 hours per year to the Watershed Inspector’s position.

The board took no action on the proposed law.

Other business at the board’s Dec. 13 meeting included:

• HYRDROFRACKING – The public hearing for a proposed one-year moratorium on directional drilling was scheduled for the regular town board meeting Jan. 10.

• TRUCK BIDS: -The winning bid for the 2003 Highway Department pick up truck was for $7,200 from Brighton Plow Service in West Henrietta.