EPA proposes to allow NYC to continue to avoid filtering Catskill/Delaware water

May 29, 2002
EPA has proposed to continue allowing New York City not to filter drinking water from the Catskill/Delaware system, although it will require some watershed protection enhancements to the city's program.

New York, N.Y., May 29, 2002 -- After a thorough review of New York City's current watershed protections and new long-term plans to expand its protection efforts, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is proposing to continue to allow the city not to filter drinking water from the Catskill/Delaware system.

However, EPA will require a number of watershed protection enhancements to the city's program. EPA welcomes comments from the public on the proposal, which may be submitted through June 24th.

All drinking water taken from surface water sources must, under the federal Safe Drinking Water Act, be filtered to remove microbial contaminants. The law allows EPA to grant a waiver from this requirement to water suppliers if they demonstrate that they have an effective watershed control program and that their water meets strict quality standards. EPA granted such a waiver, called a Filtration Avoidance Determination (FAD), to New York City in 1997 for drinking water coming from the Catskill/Delaware watershed.

The FAD was predicated on the city's implementation of a number of specific long-term watershed protection measures for the watershed, which the city agreed to undertake according to a set time frame. In December 2001, the New York City Department of Environmental Protection (NYCDEP) submitted a revised long-term watershed protection plan to EPA, seeking to continue to avoid filtration.

Based on a review of the plan and consideration of comments received from the public at meetings held last summer in watershed communities, EPA has proposed to allow continued filtration avoidance for the city's Catskill/Delaware system.

"New York City continues to show that it can effectively carry out work that is crucial to ensuring the safety of drinking water coming from the Catskill/Delaware system," said Jane M. Kenny, EPA Regional Administrator. "Given the city's progress with its watershed partners, under the existing program and its new long-term watershed protection plans, we believe that the city continues to qualify for the filtration waiver."

EPA's decision is contingent upon enhancements in New York City's revised watershed protection plan and expansions of already existing projects including:

• completing upgrades to all wastewater treatments plants in the Catskill/Delaware watershed by early 2004;
• continuing aggressive efforts to purchase land in the Kensico Reservoir basin;
• extending funding to pay for approximately 300 septic system repairs per year in the watershed area (Malfunctioning septic systems have been identified as a major source of biological contaminants in the watershed.);
• providing additional funding to build new wastewater treatment plants in Phoenicia and Prattsville;
• funding a new community wastewater management program that would bring solutions to five communities in which wastewater might have a significant potential impact on Catskill/Delaware water;
• providing new funding to identify and remediate areas where storm water runoff poses the greatest risks to reservoirs from suspended solids, bacteria and excessive nutrients;
• increasing enforcement coordination with the New York State agencies to address storm water runoff and wetlands violations;
• expanding the city's very successful waterfowl management program - currently implemented only at the Kensico Reservoir - to the West Branch, Rondout and Ashokan Reservoirs;
• significantly expanding the existing Watershed Agricultural Program to small farms throughout the watershed, including those east of the Hudson River (The program strives to implement best management practices on farms to help reduce nonpoint source pollution from farm runoff.);
• similarly expanding the existing watershed Forestry Program east of the Hudson;
• completing the design and construction of an ultraviolet facility to disinfect the Catskill/Delaware water. (The facility, which will inactivate a number of potential pathogens, will begin operation by August 2009.);
• increasing reporting to stakeholders on the progress being made to protect the watershed and on water quality analysis; and
• ensuring the protection of public health if non-Catskill/Delaware water is introduced into the Catskill/Delaware system.

EPA will be available to speak with the public during informal public information sessions scheduled in June. Also, the public is invited to submit written comments.

To learn more about the proposed Filtration Avoidance Determination, which can be found at EPA's Web site at http://www.epa.gov/region02 or http://www.epa.gov/Region2/water/nycshed or obtained by contacting:

U.S. Environmental Protection Agency
New York City Watershed Team
290 Broadway, 28th Floor
New York, NY 10007
Phone: 212-637-3554 Fax: 212-637-4942
email: [email protected]

Written comments should be sent to the above address, fax number or e-mail address. Comments must be received by June 24, 2002.

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