Mt. Vernon mayor, City Council battle over cleanup of waterways

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MOUNT VERNON -

Mount Vernon Mayor Richard Thomas is at odds with City Council members over the city's failure to clean up local waterways.

Thomas says the city is facing crippling fines and tax hikes because of its 15-year failure to comply with the Clean Water Act. The mayor called on legislators Tuesday to hire officials, such as a planning commissioner, to help comply with the federal law. Under the law, the city is required to regulate its rivers, including the Bronx and Hutchinson rivers.

"The City Council and comptroller won't pay for the bills," says Thomas. "We need to make sure we fix the problems, create clean water and get us into compliance."

According to the mayor, taking action will cost the city $122,000. He says if the city doesn't spend the money it will face hefty Department of Justice fines in the amount of $37,500 a day.

Councilwoman Janice Duarte says the council did approve money to buy equipment and add staff to the Department of Public Works. However, Duarte says communication between the Thomas administration and the City Council is failing.

"We want to make sure we're prudent, lawful in our approach and we protect our taxpayers and the environment," says Duarte.

Mayor Thomas is asking the City Council to take action on the Clean Water Act at this Wednesday's meeting.

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