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EPA Proposes to Grant NYC a New and Extended Waiver from Filtering Drinking Water from its Catskill/Delaware Water System; City has invested more than $1 billion in watershed protection programs


(New York, N.Y.) After an extensive review of New York City’s current and future plans to protect the source of drinking water serving most of New York City, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is proposing to continue allowing the city not to filter drinking water from the Catskill/Delaware system for a ten year period, provided it continues to ensure the excellent quality of the water from this system. Toward that end, EPA is proposing to require a number of watershed protection enhancements to the city’s plan. EPA welcomes comments from the public on its proposal through May 31, 2007. The city is still required to filter water from another system called the Croton, located downstate in a much more densely populated area. That filtration system will be completed in 2011.

“New York City has proven that it is a good steward of the quality and safety of drinking water coming from the Catskill/Delaware system,” said Alan J. Steinberg, EPA Regional Administrator. “EPA’s decision means that New Yorkers will continue to enjoy excellent drinking water, the watershed areas upstate will remain protected and the city will be spared the expense of building a multibillion dollar filtration plant.”

Today’s EPA decision builds on years of cooperation between the New York City Department of Environmental Protection, the New York State Department of Health, the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation, watershed communities and environmental groups. 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 first granted such a waiver, called a Filtration Avoidance Determination (FAD), to New York City in 1993 for drinking water coming from the Catskill and Delaware watersheds. Periodic renewal of the FAD depends on the city’s implementation of a number of specific long-term watershed protection measures, which the city agreed to undertake according to a set time frame.

In 2006, the New York City Department of Environmental Protection submitted a revised long-term watershed protection plan to EPA, seeking a continued waiver for its Catskill and Delaware water supply systems. Based on a thorough review of the plan and consideration of hundreds of comments received from the public at meetings held in 2006, EPA is proposing approving an extension of the FAD for a ten year period, until 2017. EPA can, at any time within that period, take steps to require the city to filter its system if the Agency determines that the quality of the drinking water is threatened.

The new draft FAD covers all of the city’s ongoing watershed protection programs and includes enhancements to many of them. One new significant commitment is a 10 year funding commitment by the city for continuation of its land acquisition program, committing $300 million over the next 10 years to purchase and preserve land throughout the Catskill and Delaware watersheds. All other programs will be re-evaluated prior to the mid-point of the FAD in 2012, and revised commitments will be established as appropriate.

In addition to land acquisition, the city will provide continuing support for wastewater infrastructure initiatives, including residential septic system rehabilitation and maintenance programs; upgrades to existing wastewater plants; completion of ongoing projects for new wastewater treatment plants; three new community wastewater treatment projects; and two new sewer extension projects.

Under EPA and New York State Department of Health supervision, the watershed program to control turbidity will provide a comprehensive engineering report evaluating potential capital improvements, and will develop an implementation plan.

The draft FAD also includes a construction schedule, consistent with EPA’s recently issued Administrative Order on Consent with the city for an ultraviolet light (UV) disinfection plant. This requires UV treatment for the Catskill/Delaware water supply by August of 2012. The city has chosen UV treatment to supplement its existing chlorine disinfection. This additional disinfection barrier will provide enhanced public health protection for consumers.

Written comments on the proposed FAD renewal should be sent to New York City Watershed Team EPA Region 2, 290 Broadway, 28th Floor New York, NY 10007, or may be submitted via email at Comments will be accepted through May 31, 2007.


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