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EPA AND ORANGE COUNTY N.Y. SETTLE A WETLANDS DISPUTE

 EPA AND ORANGE COUNTY N.Y. SETTLE A WETLANDS DISPUTE
 NEW YORK, Aug. 11 /PRNewswire/ -- The U.S. Environmental Protection


Agency today announced that Orange County, N.Y. has signed an order with EPA settling a Clean Water Act dispute centering around a recent landfill expansion project undertaken by the county. Orange County constructed an expansion of its sanitary landfill onto 49 acres of wetlands without first applying for a permit from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USCOE), as required under the wetlands provisions in the federal Clean Water Act. Today's order requires Orange County to improve adjacent wetlands or create new wetlands in exchange for the use of the wetlands that were filled for the landfill expansion.
 The Clean Water Act prohibits filling in wetlands of the United States without first receiving a permit to do so through the USCOE. Wetlands are areas that are inundated or saturated by surface or groundwater at a frequency and duration sufficient to support a prevalence of vegetation typically adapted for life in saturated soil conditions.
 Orange County owns and controls approximately 301 acres of property bounded on the west and south by the old channel of the Wallkill River, on the east by the Cheechunck Canal portion of the Wallkill River and on the north by land also owned by Orange County. The county operates the Orange County Sanitary Landfill and constructed an expansion to the existing landfill on this property.
 EPA determined, utilizing hydric soil maps, a national wetlands survey, aerial photographs, and other evidence, that Orange County filled 49 acres of wetlands when it expanded its landfill in 1989. It did not obtain a USCOE permit to do so, and therefore violated the federal Clean Water Act. Owing to the fact that the expansion project was nearly finished upon EPA discovery, the Agency determined that the expansion could not reasonably be restored to its original wetlands condition. Today's order on consent requires Orange County to make appropriate amends for the 49-acre wetlands loss by improving other wetlands or creating new ones in the Wallkill River Basin. The order requires Orange County to evaluate the functions of the wetlands filled by its landfill expansion and to determine the value associated with these functions.
 The county must also identify possible sites for the created or improved wetlands and submit them for EPA approval. These sites need not be contiguous, however, they must be at least 25 acres in size. The Agency may accept a site less than 25 acres in size if finding 25-acre parcels of land appropriate for the project is not reasonably possible. Once the sites are approved by EPA, Orange County must submit a detailed plan for improving or creating the sites. If EPA does not approve the site(s) and proposed plans submitted by Orange County, the county must immediately submit a list of alternative sites and alternative plans for improving or creating wetlands on those sites.
 Approval of any plans submitted by Orange County is subject to EPA inspection. The county must prove the ability to maintain an 85 percent survival rate of wetland vegetation after one growing season, and must prove ability to maintain this survival rate for at least three years. In addition, Orange County will monitor the site(s) for at least five years, and prepare yearly reports, including photographs, showing the vitality of the mitigated site(s). The county must guarantee the continuation of the project regardless of changes in ownership of the property.
 If the county fails to comply with any of the requirements of today's order, EPA can take further enforcement action, including requiring the removal of the original 49 acres of fill placed for the landfill expansion.
 -0- 8/11/92
 /CONTACT: Mary Breitenbach of EPA, 212-264-2515/ CO: U.S. Environmental Protection Agency ST: New York IN: SU:


SH -- NY038 -- 8918 08/11/92 11:27 EDT
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Date:Aug 11, 1992
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