Dan Hust | Democrat
DR. KATHERINE BEINKAFNER, a scientist working on behalf of the Basha Kill Area Association, airs her concerns.
Water issues top at Yukiguni hearing
By Dan Hust
WURTSBORO Water topped concerns brought up at Wednesday’s public hearing on the Yukiguni Maitake mushroom factory proposed near Wurtsboro.
About two dozen speakers voiced worries and even outright opposition to the plan, which was revised earlier this year by the company. Some even questioned the public hearing itself.
“As a member of a planning board, I was wondering the purpose of today’s hearing,” remarked Dr. Katherine Beinkafner, a Clintondale scientist retained by the Basha Kill Area Association (BKAA) to study Yukiguni’s plans.
Many of the speakers felt there were still too many unanswered questions, especially about water usage. As a result, the Mamakating Planning Board itself was as much the focus of the hearing as Yukiguni.
“This planning board refuses to recognize the value of our aquifer,” remarked Wurtsboro resident Justina Burton.
And if the Bashakill’s water is tainted, “it’s going to have an effect on the entire environment here,” added Sullivan County Audubon Society President Valerie Freer.
Yukiguni’s attorney, Charles Bazydlo, spent quite some time that evening explaining the plant’s new geothermal system which would pump thousands of gallons of water out of and back into the aquifer underlying the factory’s location along McDonald Road and Route 209.
But his assurances that the water would not be treated with chemicals nor be used for treatment processes were not enough to assuage an audience largely opposed to the facility itself.
BKAA-retained engineer Andy Willingham spent the better part of 15 minutes arguing that further water usage review is necessary, with other speakers adding that they’re afraid of potential flooding and urged that a supplemental environmental impact statement be prepared.
Summitville’s Richard Morris even wondered how many more waterfowl might be attracted to new surface ponds, possibly endangering pilots using the nearby Wurtsboro Airport.
Only one speaker besides Bazydlo actually spoke in favor of the project: Wurtsboro resident Morris Smith.
“The BKAA never saw a business they didn’t like,” he commented. “... This town has a bad reputation. No one wants to come here to do business.
“... Half a job is better than no job,” he remarked.
But the rest of the audience alternated between criticizing Yukiguni’s revisions and castigating the planning board for not taking a closer look at them.
“I was extremely disappointed to learn that there are no concrete answers because our planning board is not demanding any,” Jackie Broder of Wurtsboro said.
In a later interview, planning board attorney Langdon Chapman said there are reams of documents on file with the township for anyone to review (although it was pointed out Wednesday that some of Yukiguni’s filings with the state Department of Environmental Conservation were just made available to the planning board this week).
While not legally required, Chapman said the board chose to hold the hearing so people could comment on the revisions, and he felt they heard some “very legitimate questions.”
The board did heed residents’ requests for another public hearing and scheduled one for September 23 at 7 p.m. at the town hall in Wurtsboro.
After that, the board may push for an amended SEQRA finding (or not) before giving Yukiguni final approval.
However, as Bazydlo pointed out, two years ago Yukiguni was granted conditional final approval (based on a host of conditions, some of which have yet to be met). And since subsequent litigation against the company failed, technically Yukiguni could start construction at any time.
Summitville resident Eileen Haworth Weil contended that the revisions constitute a site plan amendment and thus town code demands a reapplication process, but Chapman and Planning Board Chair John Piazza felt Yukiguni’s original application remains open and thus can be revised at any time.
Bazydlo didn’t believe the planning board had the right to continue the public hearing, but he said Yukiguni will not contest it since the DEC documents had just been given to board members.
Residents promised they’d be at the next hearing to again air concerns.
“We just want common sense,” said James McIntyre of Wurtsboro, “... and we don’t want to be run over.”