United States And State Of New York Announce Lodging Of Modified Consent Decree For Croton Drinking Water Supply
Loretta E. Lynch, United States Attorney for the Eastern District of New York, Sam Hirsch, Acting Assistant Attorney General, United States Department of Justice, Environment and Natural Resources Division, Judith A. Enck, Regional Administrator, United States Environmental Protection Agency Region 2, Eric T. Schneiderman, Attorney General for the State of New York, and Dr. Howard Zucker, New York State Acting Commissioner of Health, announced today that the United States and the 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 today 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 United States 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. 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 will have the ability to deliver 290 million gallons of high-quality water each day from the Croton System. The City has stated that use of the Croton drinking water supply system will be critical in ensuring that the City can continue to meet the City’s drinking water needs during the shutdown of the Delaware Aqueduct. The Croton drinking water supply system will also supplement the city’s water supply during future drought conditions.
“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,” said United States Attorney Lynch. Ms. Lynch promised continued vigorous enforcement and oversight of the requirements of the Consent Decree as supplemented.
“Ensuring that people have a safe source of drinking water is essential to protecting public health,” said EPA Regional Administrator Enck. “EPA required the city to build a filtration plant because the New Yorkers who drink Croton water deserve to have the highest quality water possible. The Safe Drinking Water Act was designed to protect people from Giardia and Cryptosporidium, which can affect the water supply and cause serious illness. The Croton system is vulnerable to these types of contamination, which makes filtration imperative.”
“Water from the Croton system has been critical to New Yorkers since the first Croton aqueduct was put in operation in 1842. Completion of the filtration plant, as required under the Third Supplement, will help ensure that water from the Croton watershed will remain safe, available, and integral to New York City’s supply. My office will continue to work with our federal, state, and local partners to confirm the Consent Decree is followed and the filtration plant is completed and operational as soon as possible,” said New York Attorney General Schneiderman.
“Drinking water is a vital resource, and the New York State Department of Health is committed to ensuring that New Yorkers have a safe dependable supply. The Croton water filtration plant will play an important role in this effort now and well into the future,” said Acting New York State Health Commissioner Zucker.
The proposed settlement will be published in the Federal Register for a 30-day public comment period and to become effective must be approved by United States District Judge Nina Gershon of the Eastern District of New York, who is overseeing enforcement of the Consent Decree. The action was litigated and the Consent Decree was negotiated by Assistant United States Attorney Deborah B. Zwany, Elizabeth Yu, U. S. Department of Justice, Environment and Natural Resources Division, and Andrew Gershon, New York State Attorney General’s Office, with assistance from EPA Region 2, Phyllis Feinmark, Regional Counsel’s Office, Doughlas McKenna, Chief of the Water Compliance Branch, and Nicole Kraft, Chief of the Ground Water Compliance Section, and the New York State Department of Health’s Bureau of Water Supply Protection.