HOLYOKE CITIZENS FOR OPEN GOVERNMENT (HCOG)
For more information:
Carolyn Toll Openheim
For Immediate Release:
Holyoke Citizens For Open Government to Hold Educational Meeting
To Discuss Mayor¹s and Federal EPA (Environmental Protection Agency)
Appearance of Cooperation to Force Privatization of Sewer System
And to help citizens Learn More About the Issue.
Wednesday Feb. 16, € 6:30 pm Holyoke High School, 500 Beech St.
A panel presented by Holyoke Citizens for Open Government will discuss the problems and unnecessary expenses involved in the proposed privatization of Holyoke¹s wastewater treatment facilities by Aquarion Water Company. Citizens and city councilors will discuss how to deal with growing pressure from the federal Environmental Protection Agency that appears to be orchestrated by the Mayor to intimidate the city council into voting for privatization.
³Holyoke Mayor Michael Sullivan misrepresented the city council by going to the EPA with a request on behalf of the city council for an extension of 18 months to re-evaluate the privatization,² said City Councilor Elaine Pluta, who will address the meeting.
"It appears that he went to the EPA to poke their nest and get them to come down and create a deadline, just on the day of our public hearing, to frighten the public," Pluta said. "The only plan on the table is privatization and he is trying to force the city to go with it through this EPA order."
The public hearing was held by the city council Finance Committee and the Department of Public Works at the request of City Councilor Kevin Jourdain, to give the public an opportunity to ask questions and offer comments on the proposed contract. Nearly 500 citizens packed the high school auditorium.
A lawyer from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency came from Boston to issue a public announcement of a new EPA order for Holyoke to start construction by July 1 on the proposed Berkshire Street combined sewer overflow abatement facility and related necessary improvements to the wastewater treatment plant.. The Mayor revealed to the Springfield Republican later in the week that he had made a visit to Boston, ostensibly to seek a delay, shortly before the scheduled public hearing.
Almost every citizen who came to the microphone opposed the private contract.
³It is egregious of the EPA to try to threaten us into an ill-advised privatization,² said Ward Morehouse, a co-founder of the Holyoke Citizens group. ³The EPA has not been helping the community to identify and compare its alternatives, with its vast expertise and experiences.²
Holyoke Citizens for Open Government calls on the city to obtain professional assistance to weigh its alternatives from AMSA, the Association of Metropolitan Sewerage Agencies, a national coalition of professionals working on behalf of publicly run wastewater systems. The group offers technical assistance and benchmarks for deciding how to upgrade its systems, whether public or private, said Adam Krantz, director of AMSA, in Washington DC.
Krantz said the EPA customarily gives extensions to communities that are working with AMSA if they show they are researching steps advised by the country¹s professionals.²
At tonight¹s city council meeting (Feb. 15th) n order to halt all efforts toward privatization and start the process for a city-operated wastewater treatment facility will be discussed, filed by City councilor, Mark Lubold Ward 6, who will also speak at the Wednesday meeting. He wants to move towards compliance with the EPA through a public system.
City Councilor Helen Norris, who will also speak, filed an order last month asking the city to appropriate funds to prepare request for proposals from engineering firms to design a publicly operated new wastewater treatment plant.
City councilors Lillian Santiago and Kevin Jourdain, members of the Holyoke Citizens group, and legal/economic consultant Mark Siegars members will also speak.
A video presentation will help further educate the public on the process now facing the city in its choices of solutions to the combined sewer overflow problem.
"If we come up with a 'unique program,' or a demonstration project, the EPA might fund it," Lubold said. "Like special treatments along highways to capture the overflow. They took away a lot of wetlands when they put in I-91, our puddle catcher, There used to be a pond behind my house fed by a brook. Now the brook flows into our sewer system."
"You could get a study done in 6 to 12 weeks to determine the costs of upgrading the system and run it publicly," Siegars said.