Sections of an Ontario County cemetery washing away

SHORTSVILLE, N.Y. — Sections of a cemetery in Ontario County are washing away to the point where you can see the slabs that cover the caskets. As the cemetery association, the Village of Shortsville and the State of New York go around and around on what or who is to blame, those with loved ones buried in the Brookside Cemetery are growing frustrated.

“My parents are buried here, my grandparents are buried here,” Mark Watts told News10NBC on a recent walk through Brookside Cemetery along Route 21 in the Village of Shortsville. The ground is giving out along a hill where a number of graves are located.

There are holes in the ground every few feet. “This one,” Watts said while stepping in a hole, “you can feel the bottom but it’s down there a ways, this will eventually wash out and what do you have right above it? Veteran, veteran, veteran, all WWII veteran graves.”

Watts is a local VFW Commander. “There’s a lot of veterans buried in this cemetery, but everybody’s grave deserves respect,” he says. But not everyone’s grave is getting it. The village has already filled in a grave that was almost washed out down to the casket, and the one next to it is well on its way.

“You don’t just throw trash in people’s graves; these were just tossed in there,” Watts said while pulling wreaths out of the hole just behind a headstone, “and you can see after the recent rain that all of that is now caved in.”

Fred Mink is the mayor of the Village of Shortsville. He tells News10NBC the Brookside Cemetery Association contacted him last year concerned that a 100-year-old sewer pipe that runs beneath the graves is the reason for the wash-out.

The village paid to put a storm drain in the cemetery so it could access the pipe beneath to investigate. “We put a camera through it and discovered at the end of our line, we have an 18-inch pipe that reduced down to an 8-inch pipe and it was clogged with debris. We paid a company to clean out the debris,” Mink says.

The clean-out helped a little, but the big pipe still empties into a smaller one which continues to cause back-ups and erosion. “The rains that we’ve been having have been washing out a lot of things, and I think that’s contributing to it,” Mink says.

The village pipe ends at a state pipe so, at this point, the cemetery association and the Village of Shortsville are waiting on the NYS Department of Transportation. “Verbally we were told that yes, we acknowledge there’s a problem here … we’ll investigate it,” Mink says.

In a statement, a spokesperson from the NYS DOT tells News10NBC, “The New York State Department of Transportation is aware of these concerns and is engaged with the Village of Shortsville as they investigate the issues with their drainage pipe at the Brookside Cemetery. We have advised the Village to conduct further testing at the site and remain ready to assess the facts once those tests are completed.”

Mink says the testing is complete as was previously provided to DOT. When News10NBC followed up again with DOT, we were told, “Our statement remains the same until we assess the facts of their further testing.”

The village contacted NYS Senator Pam Helming’s office for help. A meeting is set for this week between the senator, the village and DOT.