You are here

Firm claims officials knew about Watkins Glen water quality concerns prior to Phish concert


WATKINS GLEN, N.Y. (WENY) -- President of Toxics Targeting, Walter Hang, says originally, state officials claimed there was nothing they could do to avoid the water contamination that canceled last week's Phish concert and put Watkins Glen and other communities on a boil water advisory.

"The state authorities said, well, this was an unavoidable problem," said Hang. "It was just a huge rainstorm. It washed all this material into the lake and they implied that there was kind of nothing you could do about it. It was kind of an act of God."

According to Hang, state authorities knew the risk to the drinking water and failed to do anything.

"State authorities knew about this threat to drinking water in Watkins Glen more than a decade ago," said Hang. "They documented this problem in 2007, 2012, 2016 and yet they failed to take action to prevent this catastrophe."

Hang claims with all the rain we've been receiving, excessive storm water runoff is being put into the lake, possibly carrying contaminates. When the pollution is too high, Hang says the antiquated waste water treatment plant can't keep up. But Hang says that's only half the problem.

"There's a second problem with this antiquated waste water treatment plant which is actually dumping the human waste water into the lake in the immediate vicinity of the drinking water intake," said Hang. "This is just poor planning."

We reached out to the Schuyler county Administrator for comment, but he was unavailable. But according to the New York State Department of Health Spokesperson, JP O'Hare, the decision to cancel the Phish concert wasn't easy.

“The difficult decision to cancel this show tells you everything you need to know about the state and county’s ongoing commitment, and the priorities placed, on ensuring access to clean drinking water," said O'Hare.

In the end, Hang is demanding answers from Governor Andrew Cuomo.

"Andrew Cuomo, come to Watkins Glen, face your constituents and explain how this crisis occurred," said Hang, "and what you're doing to do to make sure it never happens again."