Crowley Spearheads Call for EPA to Waive Hillview Reservoir Mandate

Aug 3, 2011 Issues:

(Washington, D.C.) – Rep. Joseph Crowley (D-Queens, the Bronx) spearheaded a call for the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to grant the City of New York a waiver from having to construct a cover over the Hillview Reservoir in Yonkers, New York.  In a letter to EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson, Crowley and nine members of the New City Congressional Delegation urge the EPA to waive the mandate based on the significant economic burden it will place on New York City and its residents as well as the fact that the City is already building a facility to protect New York’s water system from biological pathogens.  

“Not only does this mandate hurt the pocketbooks of New Yorkers and the City, but it is also completely unnecessary,” said Rep. Crowley. “The City is already taking steps to ensure our drinking water is pure and safe, and adding an increased economic burden to achieve the same result just doesn’t add up. That is why we are urging the EPA to waive this mandate and work with the City to find commonsense solutions to ensure New Yorkers continue to receive high-quality and safe water.”

The EPA mandate requires all open reservoirs that contain treated drinking water to be covered with concrete or undergo additional retreatment processes to protect drinking water from biological pathogens. New York City will soon operate a $1.6 billion ultraviolent disinfection plant that will treat the City’s water for the same pathogens the mandated cover is intended to address, making the requirement redundant and overly burdensome for the City.

In addition, the costs associated with this project could result in increasing residents’ already rising water rates. Water rates for New York City residents have increased 90% over the last five years, and costs associated with fulfilling this mandate could increase rates by another 3%.

“While we would never urge any action that would endanger the quality and safety of the tap water we all drink, we believe that the EPA’s mandate is unnecessary and will saddle City ratepayers with additional, unnecessary costs,” write the lawmakers in the letter.

New York City manages the largest and most-impressive drinking water system in the nation, providing clean drinking water to over 9 million residents and others living in the watershed area. In addition to building the new ultraviolet disinfection plant, the City performs more than 500,000 water quality tests each year. New York City has worked with the EPA to find common-sense approaches to protect the water system and maintain its high quality, while avoiding billions in unnecessary capital costs.

The full text of the letter to EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson is below:  

August 2, 2011

Lisa Jackson

Administrator, Environmental Protection Agency

1200 Pennsylvania Avenue, N.W.
Washington, DC 20460

Dear Administrator Jackson:

We are concerned about the proposed Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) mandate that the City of New York must construct a cover over the Hillview Reservoir in Yonkers, New York and urge you to grant a waiver of this mandate.  The cost of the project could result in significant increases in costs for City ratepayers – who have already seen their water bills almost double since 2006.  Further, at this point in time, the cover is redundant, since the City is soon set to operate an ultraviolet disinfection plant that will treat the City’s water for the same pathogens that the Hillview cover is intended to prevent. 

New York City manages the largest and most-impressive drinking water system in the nation, which provides clean drinking water to over 9 million residents and others located in the watershed area. There has been a long and effective partnership between the EPA and the City on drinking water management from the upstate reservoir system, including the oversight and management of the Catskill-Delaware system. In fact, the EPA has a long history of working collaboratively with New York City to find common-sense approaches to protect the water system and maintain its high quality while avoiding billions in unnecessary capital costs. For example, the filtration avoidance program the EPA and New York City implemented for the Catskill-Delaware system west of the Hudson River demonstrates a mutual commitment to providing the highest quality water at an affordable price. It is a program that has saved the City upwards of $9 billion, but has consistently kept the water quality at the highest standards.

New York City is already in the process of completing a $1.6 billion facility just north of the reservoir that will treat water using ultraviolet light.  The facility is designed to address the same issue the cover would hope to address.  Additionally, the City conducts more than 500,000 water quality tests annually to ensure the highest quality drinking water comes out of the tap. These costly, but worthwhile investments in the water system clearly demonstrate New York City’s commitment to maintaining a clean water supply and to implementing data-driven approaches to enhancing water quality.

While we would never urge any action that would endanger the quality and safety of the tap water we all drink, we believe that this EPA mandate is unnecessary and will saddle City ratepayers with additional, unnecessary costs. 

For this reason, we urge you to issue a waiver of the EPA mandate of the construction of a cover over the Hillview Reservoir.

Sincerely,

Joseph Crowley                                                                          

Eliot L. Engel

Charles B. Rangel

Nita M. Lowey

Michael G. Grimm                                                              

Gary L. Ackerman

Edolphus Towns

Yvette D. Clarke

Carolyn B. Maloney