U.S. Water News Online
ALBANY, N.Y. -- New York City's sprawling upstate Catskill
and Delaware reservoir systems are clean enough to allow the city to
continue avoiding the filtration of water, the federal Environmental
Protection Agency has determined.
The agency is circulating a proposal to continue for five more years
a waiver from filtering water it first issued the city in 1997. Under
federal law, surface reservoir waters used for human consumption must
be filtered to remove impurities unless operators can show their
water meets quality standards and watershed areas around reservoirs
are protected from pollution.
``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 EPA Regional Administrator
In 1996, the Pataki administration, New York City and communities
around the city's upstate reservoirs reached an agreement designed to
lower the chances of pollutants such as phosphorus contained in
fertilizers from getting into the water supplies.
A year later, the city's Department of Environmental Protection (DEP)
secured a waiver from the EPA to avoid filtration. It is estimated
that the cost of such a system would be about $6 billion.
Christopher Ward, commissioner of the DEP, said the ``unique
coalition'' of the state, federal and upstate governments, plus some
environmentalists groups, is paying off, both in ``protecting water
quality and the economic viability of watershed communities.''
Chlorine is added to the city's water to kill contaminants before it
reaches taps in the New York City area.
The EPA said the extension of its waiver is contingent upon the city
continuing several measures to protect the reservoirs, including:
? Completing the upgrade of all wastewater treatment plants in the
region, including the building of new plants in Phoenicia and
? Purchasing lands to buffer the Kensico Reservoir.
? Continuing the funding to repair about 300 septic systems a year in
the watershed region.
? Expanding a program to help operators of small farms to reduce the
runoff of agricultural chemicals and topsoil.
? Completing, by August 2009, the construction of an ultraviolet
light facility to disinfect water in the Catskill and Delaware
About 9 million people in New York City and its northern suburbs use
the city's reservoir system for drinking water.
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