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United Water Not At Fault For 2007 West Nyack Flooding

Jury Finds Lake DeForest and Lake Tappan dams did not contribute to flooding

 

A Rockland County Supreme Court Jury found on Friday morning that United Water did not contribute to flooding in West Nyack and River Vale, NJ in April 2007.  Over a 31-hour period on April 15 and 16, 2007 between six and eight inches of water fell, flooding dozens of properties. The jury deliberated for a day and a half before reaching its decision.

“The jury got it wrong,” said Orangeburg Attorney Kevin Mulhearn, who represented more than 50 residents and business owners. “I think today’s decision is a blow for the little man and a boon for the corporate conglomerate that can make it go away.”

United Water released a statement the Lake DeForest Dam and Lake Tappan Dam did not worsen the flooding that occurred during the storm.

"After hearing all the evidence, the jury determined that the flooding was caused by a naturally occurring event,” said Michael Pointing, vice president and general manager of the United Water New York division and Jim Glozzy, general manager of the United Water New Jersey division. 

“We have great empathy for customers who had storm damage,” said Pointing and Glozzy. “However, it was caused by unprecedented heavy rains over a significant period of time. In addition, the river system was full due to spring snow melt and 1½ -2 inches of rain which fell two days earlier. The 113 square mile watershed was fully saturated before the rainstorm."

 Five and a half years after they were flooded, the lawsuit filed by West Nyack and River Vale, NJ property owners against United Water New York and United Water New Jersey went to court on Friday, Sept. 28.  The case, Raymond W. Stormes versus United Water New York, Inc., began with opening arguments in Rockland County Supreme Court in New City followed by testimony on Monday, Oct. 1. The 53 complainants, whose properties are near the Hackensack River, sued United Water for more than $50 million for flooding

Pointing and Glozzy explained the dams help reduce downstream flooding by retaining water in the reservoir. Without the dams to hold back water, the flow in the river would be significantly greater and so would the damage caused by flooding.

Mulhearn said the case was in progress for four years and the plaintiffs will pursue all available appeals. He said United Water should realize its corporate responsibility includes being a good neighbor to people who live near its dams.

He said several plaintiffs were in court on Friday morning and reacted strongly.

“They were devastated,” said Mulhearn. “They were devastated, dumbfounded and in a state of disbelief.”

United Water stated its operates its dams in accordance with guidelines set by the New York Department of Environmental Conservation and the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection. The company describes its highest priority as maintaining and operating its infrastructure in a manner that ensures the safety and integrity of the dams and the water supply. United Water supplies drinking water for about one million people in Rockland County and Bergen and Hudson counties in New Jersey.

mike sullivan October 12, 2012 at 10:42 PM
all these people bought homes ,where they knew flooding occured.My father was born and raised in West Nyack,before the resiviour was built and he said it always fllode back then.He said kids from West Nyack were known as swamp rats because West Nyack was built on swamps.
Issy October 12, 2012 at 11:29 PM
While this is unfortunate for the homeowners, this is the right decision. These houses and businesses are built on a flood plain and the Lake Deforest dam was not built to control flooding downstream, but as a water supply. It is time for the town to step in and accept their responsibility and resolve this, because there will be more flood in the years to come.
elaine October 13, 2012 at 11:51 AM
thise homes that are situated opposite the dam in west nyack should never have been built. it seems to me that the builder of that development should be held responsible for knowing, before building those homes, that they would be subject to flooding, because of the lay of the land.
Gregg October 13, 2012 at 02:42 PM
The jury voted right on this.

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