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Nassau and North Hempstead disagree on how storm-water pipe became clogged with concrete

The "Yes We Can" Community Center in New

The "Yes We Can" Community Center in New Cassel is seen in this photograph from March 25, 2014. Concrete "illegally" dumped into a stormwater pipe may have caused more than $500,000 in flooding damage to the community center. Credit: Danielle Finkelstein

Nassau County and North Hempstead officials are at odds over who is responsible for concrete that county officials say was "illegally" dumped into a storm-water pipe in New Cassel that may have caused more than $500,000 in flooding damage to the town's community center in 2014.

North Hempstead officials said during an Aug. 21 rainfall the town-run Yes We Can Community Center in New Cassel flooded for the second consecutive year. The first was in August of last year and resulted in $518,400 in damage. After the most recent flooding, town officials discovered that a nearby storm-water pipe under Rushmore Street was clogged with concrete, but did not immediately know which municipality owned the 60-inch pipe.

The town began emergency work to remove concrete from the pipe until officials learned it was owned by Nassau County. Now town officials are seeking reimbursement for the flood damage to the town's property and the $100,000 billed for the emergency work.

Meanwhile, Nassau County Department of Public Works spokeswoman Mary Studdert said the town has "failed to enforce" its storm-water runoff law, which prohibits discharges like concrete from entering the wastewater stream. She said the cost to fix damage caused by the blockage to the storm-water runoff system and damage effected by the blocked pipe is "millions of dollars."

The Nassau County Legislature is expected to vote Wednesday on a $1.327 million contract "for the emergency response for the removal of illegally dumped concrete from a County owned drain line under Rushmore Street" in New Cassel, according to legislative documents.

While county officials blame an unidentified Rushmore Street business for the blockage, according to Studdert, town officials say they have ticketed concrete companies near the storm-water pipe and are currently prosecuting those companies in District Court in Hempstead for allegedly failing to contain concrete dust and residue. No other information could be learned Tuesday on those companies.

The town is home to six concrete plants and officials are inspecting all of them, and tickets have been issued where violations have been found, town spokeswoman Carole Trottere said.

North Hempstead Town Attorney Elizabeth Botwin said in a statement that "our investigation shows that the concrete mass did not travel through the Town's storm water drains. The mass of concrete is upstream from the Town's drains at Main Street and Rushmore. It is possible that the County's pipe has a hole in it which allows the concrete to enter the County pipe. However, this may only be determined when the concrete is completely drilled out."

The North Hempstead Town Board is to retain a company to record video footage of the flow of storm water to be sure that no pipes are funneling concrete.

Town officials said the community center, on Garden Street in New Cassel, sustained damage to its dance studio and workout room, which are still closed, and its 311 call center, which has been relocated to Town Hall, during the storm this August.

That damage comes a year after heavy flooding at the community center on Aug. 13, 2014, that "might have been caused by the cement issue, but we do not yet know for certain," Trottere said.

Town officials could not provide estimates for the 2015 damage to the center, which was opened in 2012 and cost $27 million to build.

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