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  • Mamaroneck Observer

One-Two Punch for Washingtonville Residents

by Kathy Savolt -


Stating that flooding is now a “matter of life and death,” several residents of the Washingtonville neighborhood, supported by residents from across the Village, once again asked the Board of Trustee (BOT) to focus their attention on flood mitigation.


It became especially compelling when resident Tim O’Connor presented findings from a review of public databases of known toxins in the area and the uptick in cancer cases among his family, friends, and neighbors.  He requested $65,000 be included in the 2024-25 Village budget for testing of the soil, river water, aquifer water and air in Washingtonville.


Speaking during the Public Comment period of the March 11th BOT meeting, O’Connor reminded the BOT that he appeared before them several times starting in September 2022 to inform them about a possible cancer cluster in Washingtonville.  Since that time, O’Connor and his neighbors have worked with County Legislator Catherine Parker and organizations such as Grassroots Environmental Education to gather publicly available data about known toxins and potential cancer causes in a one-mile radius of Washingtonville.  O’Connor paid $150 from his own pocket to Toxics Targeting in Ithaca for a comprehensive report.  See summary HERE.


This summary shows 482 potentially contaminated sites within a 1/2 mile of the center of Washingtonville.  O’Connor presented a map of the aquifer from the Westchester County Geographic Information System that shows that the entire Washingtonville neighborhood sits on top of the aquifer.  (Old timers remember when, not that long ago, the aquifer was their source of drinking water.)  Some speculate that the aquifer is contributing not only to the flooding, but to possible contamination as well.


O’Connor reported that since Hurricane Ida in September 2021, several neighbors have been diagnosed with cancer, including three cases of thyroid cancer within 50 feet of one another.  These diagnoses led to a canvass of the neighborhood whereupon 46 cases of 21 different types of cancer were identified within the neighborhood.


The $65,000 for testing of local soil, river water, aquifer water and air is to determine if there is a scientific basis for their concerns.


After O’Connor finished speaking, many residents – both from within Washingtonville and other parts of the Village – reiterated requests that the BOT start flood mitigation efforts in earnest.  Some of these speakers identified themselves as cancer victims and survivors.  Several mentioned grant funding that was available and urged Village staff to apply for grants before they are gone – even if it means hiring additional grant writers.  Others cited old studies with recommendations for projects to be undertaken and noted that nothing was ever done, and the BOT was reminded once again that flooding is the number one priority in the Village as reported in the Comprehensive Plan.


After the meeting Jennifer Baez, a resident of Harbor Heights attending her first BOT meeting, called the entire situation “heartbreaking.”


Prior to the Public Comment period, Dan Sarnoff, Deputy Village Manager, reported that Village officials recently met with Army Corps of Engineers (ACE) Brigadier General John P. Lloyd, representatives from the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC), and staff from Westchester County.  They toured sites in the Village such as Columbus Park, the “train bridge” and Ward Avenue Bridge and discussed the possibility of the current ACE funding being sufficient to cover the agreed scope of work in Mamaroneck by using the budgeted contingency funds.  This possibility would eliminate the need for additional funding.  Trustee Nora Lucas reported it was a “very optimistic meeting” and she felt “ACE is on our side.”


Sarnoff reported that a subcommittee of the group will follow up on available grants, news that did not seem to satisfy the residents who spoke later in the meeting about grant availability.


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