Sewage dumping a foul issue in village of Westfield
For several months now I have read with increasing dismay the events unfolding in the picturesque village of Westfield. A sincere and heartfelt attachment to my hometown, to the people and the community has always been a cornerstone of my life. However, regarding the raging controversy over the illegal dumping of raw sewage into Chautauqua Creek, I feel compelled to write some comments of my own.
Like Paul Harvey, the ABC radio broadcaster famous for his "Rest of The Story" segments, maybe now would be a good time to ask a few questions regarding the uproar and the heartbreak this matter has caused for so many people.
The reporting of the majority of newspaper articles which quote village employees and both the mayor and other Village Board members all seem to point to the method being used to solve an overflow sewage problem. This overflow situation occurs when the pump station is unable to handle the raw sewage when there is a mechanical breakdown (which seems to occur fairly regularly) and also during severe rainstorms. What to do with the overflow of raw sewage is to dump it into the Chautauqua Creek. A method evidently used for many, many years. The mayor stated, "we applied for grant after grant for the past 30-40 years, trying to take care of this issue and never been successful."
If this is the standard operating procedure why was cell phone video made? Why did an employee object to this practice? What is the basis for the video? Why the legal actions by the federal court? Why did this all come to light so suddenly? Why the conflicting accounts by the village authorities that are clearly disputed by the video? Why was the video made and released? Why was the Westfield Village Board in a special work session on Monday, Aug. 22 voted to front any fines levied by the U.S. District Court on Mr. Thompson? Could it be the majority of the public had no idea this continued dumping was happening?
Could the why be simply because one person refused to knuckle under to the pressure of the establishment, to ignore the potential harm to the health of people who use Chautauqua Creek and Lake Erie for recreational activities? An article regarding Village Board "riding to the rescue" of Mr. Thompson seems a bit too positive.
In fact, the articles are certainly slanted in his favor at every turn. One article is both offensive and outrageous when it accuses the "employee who passed on the video to the DEC of an act of treason against the village and his employer." Very dramatic and colorful and maybe a bit of old fashioned yellow journalism. But when I went to college treason was the federal crime of betraying one's country, especially of trying to overthrow the government of one's country. It was not the act of someone trying to protect the people of his community.
Why is no one coming to the defense of the one person who tried to do the right thing? Why no "long and touching statements" about the exemplary character and honorable intentions of the one person who wanted to warn the people of the continued health risks and dangers of the illegal dumping operations? Why is this person being persecuted to this day by his employers and fellow workers? Why is his family being subjected to harassment both verbal and otherwise?
Maybe it's time for some the focus to turn on the "village authorities" who permitted this illegal pollution to continue for 30 ot 40 years. Maybe it's time for the people of Westfield to question on whose shoulders the blame should really rest.
It is also time for the newspaper to do its job and start asking the questions that demand answers from our public officials. First, why have we heard nothing about this incident from Mr. Thompson directly? Have you asked him to comment? Mr. Thompson is Director of Public Works and is one of the highest paid officials in the village of Westfield. The newspaper has had no problems confronting other Directors of Public Works in Dunkirk and Forestville when problems arise, but they have taken a hands-off approach with Mr. Thompson. Why?
It is understandable why Mr. Thompson would not comment about the case when it was pending, but that is no longer applicable. The public has the right to know why he chose to dump raw sewage into the creek. Were there other options available to him that he did not use? As the director of Public Works we have the right to know how he intends to handle other emergencies in the future. One way for the public to assess his performance is for us to know why he made the decisions he did. His continued silence and the newspaper's reluctance to press Thompson for answers creates distrust and skepticism.
Natalie Jasper is an
Erie, Pa., resident.