New York City

U.S., New York State announce agreement to filter NYC water supply

August 18, 2014 Brooklyn Daily Eagle
Loretta Lynch advocated for the filtration of New York's water supply. Eagle file photo
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The Brooklyn Daily Eagle has learned that the United States and New York state have reached agreement with New York City to modify the Consent Decree entered in November 1998, which required the city to construct a filtration plant for its Croton drinking water supply. Under the Third Supplement to the Consent Decree, lodged Friday in U.S. District Court in Brooklyn, the city completed construction of the filtration plant on April 15, 2014, and will commence operation of the filtration plant at its selected site, the Mosholu Golf Course Site in the Bronx, no later than May 17, 2015. 

If the city fails to meet the May 17, 2015, deadline, the Consent Decree provides for stipulated penalties in the amount of $65 million. Under the Consent Decree, the city is required to conduct interim measures, including monitoring the quality and safety of the Croton System and implementing watershed protection measures.

The need for this modification arose when the city failed to meet certain deadlines under the Second Supplement to the Consent Decree, including completion of construction. The city has paid $5,064,000 in penalties to date for missed deadlines associated with the delays in the project schedule. 

New York City is required to filter its Croton System under the Safe Drinking Water Act and the Surface Water Treatment Rule (SWTR), as well as the New York state Sanitary Code. Under the SWTR, the city was required to implement filtration for its Croton System by June 29, 1993. By stipulation with the state of New York, the city agreed to begin construction by July 1, 1996, and operate a filtration plant by June 1, 2000. The city failed to comply with the stipulation and, in 1997, the U.S. brought suit against New York City to enforce the 

filtration requirements. Soon thereafter, the state of New York and its Commissioner of Health intervened in the suit as plaintiffs and are parties to the Consent Decree as supplemented.

Filtering drinking water obtained from surface water sources, such as the Croton System, reduces the risk of waterborne disease. These sources are susceptible to potential contamination from disease causing organisms such as Giardia and Cryptosporidium which can easily get into surface water supplies from human activity and animals. Filtration, coupled with disinfection and source water protection, is the best means of ensuring the safety of drinking water from the city’s Croton water supply. According to the government, drinking water from the Croton System does not pose an immediate threat to public health, but filtration is necessary to assure the continued long term safety of water delivered from the Croton System. 

The city has not used of the Croton System since 2008 due to the ongoing construction of the filtration plant. With the completion of the filtration plant and when the Croton drinking water supply system is fully reactivated, the city can continue to meet its drinking water needs during the shutdown of the Delaware Aqueduct.

“The United States brought this action in 1997 to ensure that New York City residents are provided with safe drinking water from the Croton Water Supply. Despite many hurdles in siting and challenges in construction and contracting, we have vigorously enforced the Consent Decree to ensure that construction of the filtration plant was completed and that filtered water will be available to New York City residents from the Croton System in the very near future,” U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District Loretta Lynch said. 

Lynch promised continued vigorous enforcement and oversight of the requirements of the Consent Decree as supplemented.

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