(April 12, 2007) – The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency today proposed an ambitious new plan to safeguard New York City’s drinking water. The proposal allows the city to avoid spending billions of dollars on a water filtration system and will instead safeguard the supply via cost-effective watershed protection measures.
“New Yorkers can breathe a sigh of relief today,” said Eric A. Goldstein, director of the Natural Resources Defense Council’s New York Urban Program. “City, state and federal officials have agreed to take a common sense approach to keeping our water clean.”
A key element of the plan is a ten-year strategy that would set aside $300 million of city funds for the purchase, from willing sellers, of vulnerable lands surrounding city reservoirs. The plan also calls for a new partnership between the city’s Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) and the state’s non-profit land trusts, which will be called upon to assist the DEP and upstate residents in the land acquisition program over the next decade.
These watershed protection measures are much less expensive option as compared to the
alternative of creating a water filtration system, which would have totaled approximately $6 to $10 billion in capital costs alone. And filtration could have also led to water rate increases of 50%, according to city figures.
“Governor Spitzer, Attorney General Cuomo and City Council Speaker Quinn played critical roles in helping to convince the city and the EPA that continuing a robust, ten-year land acquisition program was smart choice both economically and environmentally,” Goldstein said. “This plan is a simple and cost effective way to keep drinking water safe and healthy for New Yorkers today and their grandchildren tomorrow.”
New York City
receives 90% of its drinking water from six huge reservoirs west of the Hudson in the Catskill mountains, as far as 125 miles from Manhattan. The city is one of only five in the United States that has not been required to filter its drinking water supply. In today’s action, EPA proposed to continue this waiver from the federal filtration requirement for another ten years, recognizing the historically high quality of water from the city’s rural watershed and the new commitments the city is making to watershed protection.
“Why spend time and money cleaning up pollution that you don’t even have to create?” said Goldstein. “New York City’s water remains clean today. And if this new plan is effectively implemented over the next decade, we can keep it that way for decades to come.”