Democrat File Photo
THE FORMER HOMOWACK Lodge now Machne Bnos Square in Phillipsport is suffering from more than an oil spill, the second in as many years. Officials charge it is violating so many codes that it is unsafe to occupy. And now, residents have been asked to leave the premises, due to the conditions.
Seek to evacuate the Homowack
By Dan Hust
PHILLIPSPORT The state and the Town of Mamakating have told the occupants of the old Homowack Lodge in Phillipsport that they need to evacuate.
At this point, said Mamakating Supervisor Bob Fiore, the evacuation is voluntary, but if daily inspections show the nearly 400 vacationers aren’t moving out fast enough, officials will ask the court for a mandatory evacuation order.
“We paid a visit yesterday, and they had not evacuated,” Fiore remarked yesterday morning. “... We reached an agreement that there will be a voluntary evacuation.”
The state Department of Health (DOH) confirmed that an evacuation had been requested by the agency, and the owners, Ahavas Chaverim Gemilas Chesed out of Rockland County, are looking at the Raleigh Hotel in South Fallsburg as one of two relocation sites.
The evacuation request emanates from an oil spill discovered on the property last week, leading to inspections that uncovered numerous problems inside the old resort and on its grounds.
Mark Knudsen, director of DOH’s Monticello District Office, explained yesterday that DOH is citing the lodge, now called Machne Bnos Square, “for numerous, persistent and serious violations of the State Sanitary Code that include inoperable/defective fire suppression and fire alarm systems, pervasive moisture problems throughout the facility from leaking roofs and plumbing systems that have caused significant mold growth in occupied and unoccupied areas of buildings, numerous electrical violations that include water flowing over electrical boxes from leaking pipes, inadequate supervision of children, failure to maintain and operate the on-site sewage disposal system, failure to maintain disinfection of drinking water, and failure to protect the drinking water well from contamination.”
The state Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) also has cited the resort and girls camp for three violations this week: failure to report a spill, failure to register a petroleum bulk storage facility, and release of a noxious, unwholesome substance (the latter being cited after a DEC inspector noticed an occupant dumping kitchen grease into a storm drain).
DEC spokesperson Wendy Rosenbach said her agency is also looking into solid waste issues and is already warning the Homowack’s owners that its wastewater treatment facility is “in sad disrepair.”
While adequately purified water is being discharged into the environment, Rosenbach said the treatment facility has numerous immediate maintenance needs.
In the meantime, officials are working to ensure no one is left inside the resort by this weekend, including about 50 children attending the summer camp.
“The operators have been in contact with other facilities in the area and identified two potential sites for relocation of the camp. DOH is evaluating the viability of these sites,” said Knudsen. “The operators are contacting parents of campers and expressed concern about sending children home if parents or guardians are not available. DOH acknowledged the difficulty of quickly relocating campers but again stated that the potential risks to campers at the site are such that immediate action is necessary.
“DOH staff directed them to take immediate steps to protect occupants of the facility until it can be evacuated, including hiring a third party to conduct 24/7 fire watches and act as on-site fire marshal, hiring licensed plumbing and electrical contractors to identify and repair all potentially hazardous conditions in these systems, hiring a building construction consultant with experience in remediation of moisture problems to evaluate all buildings and propose methods for controlling moisture and reducing exposure to mold, and hiring a certified wastewater treatment system operator to operate and maintain the on-site sewage disposal treatment plant.”
And, added Knudsen, “NYS Department of Health Monticello District Office is working with DOH Division of Legal Affairs staff to prepare orders directing the operators to close. This could take the form of a Commissioner’s Order, or we may seek a temporary restraining order from State Supreme Court.”