Charges Follow for Skverer Camp After Oil Spill at Former Homowack Site


homowackThe former Homowack resort hotel which has been under intense scrutiny since it was taken over by Skverer chassidim from New City has been charged with three counts of violating the state environmental conservation law after an oil spill Thursday at the site. State DEC police Officer Scott Steingart said his officers, as well as DEC spill response units, answered a call at the former Homowack Hotel, now Machane Bnos Skver, for an oil spill reported by a neighbor around 3:30 p.m. Upon arriving at the site, Steingart learned that the owners of the hotel, known as Congregation Bais Trana, had released a quantity of heating oil while trying to transfer it from one tank on the property to another.The oil escaped into drains that eventually empty into a nearby stream. A pump found near a hole by Phillipsport Road might have been used in an attempt to pump water out of the drainage culvert, possibly to stop the oil from escaping the property through another pipe that runs under the road, Steingart said.

Thursday evening, firefighters and members of a hazmat team tried to stanch the flow with pads of absorbent material.

No oil seems to have left the property, Steingart said.

However, charges were filed against the congregation for failing to report the spill, which occurred at 7:45 a.m., Steingart said. In addition, the group was charged with failing to register bulk storage tanks and producing an “unwholesome” material on or near a public road, all misdemeanors that carry heavy fines under the state environmental law.

The Skverer chassidim purchased the hotel along with 450 acres of land in 2006, apparently intent on creating a new kehillah akin to Kiryas Yoel in Monroe.

Mamakating town officials have lately been critical of the operation of the hotel, a summer getaway, largely because the proprietors have failed to observe building, health and safety codes.

Town officials, including Supervisor Robert Fiore, were at the site Thursday night, meeting with members of the congregation.

Town resident Andy Weil, who reported the spill, charged that the town leaders were failing to stay vigilant on the group’s activities. “There’s a lot of problems at this end of Mamakating that the town’s not dealing with,” he said.

{Times Herald Record/ Newscenter}