U.S. Senator Charles Schumer visited Ulster County this afternoon to call on the Environmental Protection Agency to take on a more active role when it comes to ensuring cleaner water for the Lower Esopus Creek.
Senator Schumer’s call on the EPA comes on the heels of a signed consent order between the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation and the New York City Department of Environmental Protection. The consent order aims to reduce the impact of discharges from the Ashokan Reservoir to the Lower Esopus Creek, which is not part of the watershed. The lower Esopus has been plagued with problems of turbidity, or muddy water and sediment, for many years. Standing on the banks of the Esopus at Saugerties Village Beach, Schumer says addressing turbidity issues and ensuring the highest quality drinking water for New York City do not need to be mutually exclusive.
The consent order requires DEP, with DEC oversight, to conduct an environmental review of DEP releases from the Ashokan Reservoir. DEP would draft an environmental impact statement, or EIS, to come up with ways to mitigate turbidity. Here’s Schumer.
The Democrat says the process needs a federal watchdog.
An EPA spokesman, in a statement, says that from the beginning of this process, the EPA has made sure that protecting drinking water from the New York City watershed does not mean sacrificing water quality in the Lower Esopus. The EPA will continue to work with the DEC, DEP, Ulster County, and other involved agencies, officials and the public to ensure that New Yorkers have a safe source of drinking water while also addressing the concerns of the people who live near the Lower Esopus. It could not be determined in time for this broadcast whether EPA would consider the kind of involvement Schumer is urging.
Schumer was flanked by Democratic Ulster County Executive Mike Hein and Republican Saugerties Town Supervisor Kelly Myers, both of whom applauded the senator’s call to the EPA. Here’s Myers.
Schumer says the EPA could also flex its muscle to ensure the best outcome.
He notes that EPA in January 2013 classified the Lower Esopus Creek as an impaired waterway because of turbidity.