The New York State Department of Health has released for public comment draft revisions to New York City’s waiver from filtering drinking water from the Catskill/Delaware watershed. A number of stakeholders had called for public hearings, and one says they’ve already received an answer.
The Department of Health’s draft revisions are to the New York City’s 2007 Filtration Avoidance Determination, or FAD. The draft revisions to FAD allow the New York City Department of Environmental Protection to avoid building an expensive filtration system while calling for enhancements to watershed protection. Kate Hudson, Watershed Program Director for environmental group Riverkeeper, says Riverkeeper and seven municipalities of the Lower Esopus Watershed Partnership in Ulster County wrote to a DOH official, requesting public hearings.
She points out that DOH and DEP contend that the turbid, muddy releases from the Ashokan Reservoir to the Lower Esopus Creek through the Ashokan Waste Channel do not relate to the FAD. The FAD does not require New York City to conduct activities that are outside of New York City’s watershed, such as in the lower Esopus.
A DOH document dated August 23 introducing the FAD revisions notes that the revisions were developed after receiving input from watershed communities, New York City residents and other stakeholders, including during four public meetings. Riverkeeper’s Hudson contends that at least two of the hearings were not well attended, and that lower Esopus residents were unaware of how those hearings would shape the recently-released revisions, and impact their communities. Hudson says it is only fair the communities both inside and outside the watershed have a say.
She says she has received an answer from DOH.
A DOH spokesman was unable to confirm the answer in time for this broadcast or answer whether a letter is forthcoming, and the reason for that reply. Hudson says Riverkeeper will appeal to the Environmental Protection Agency, to see if EPA would compel DOH to hold public hearings. An EPA spokesperson also was unable to respond in time for this broadcast.
DEP manages New York City’s water supply, providing more than one billion gallons of water per day to more than 9 million residents, more than 8 million in New York City. The rest are in Orange, Putnam, Ulster, and Westchester Counties.
The comment period for the DOH FAD draft revisions ends October 15.