The New York State Department of Health has not scheduled any public hearings since releasing in August a draft document that would continue to allow upstate water headed for New York City faucets to avoid filtration. A group of Ulster County legislators says it will hold its own public hearing, to compile comments on the controversial subject.
In response to the New York State Department of Health’s reported decision to stick to a public comment period only, Ulster County Legislator Carl Belfiglio, chairman of the Environmental, Energy and Technology Committee of the Ulster County Legislature, says legislators will hold one of their own.
The Department of Health’s draft revisions are to New York City’s 2007 FAD, and would allow the City’s Department of Environmental Protection to avoid building an expensive filtration system for the Catskill/Delaware watershed while calling for enhancements to watershed protection. At issue for the legislators and some town supervisors is the exclusion of the lower Esopus Creek from the FAD. A DOH spokesman maintains that the FAD revisions were developed after gathering input from watershed communities, city residents and other stakeholders, including from public meetings in Delhi, Belleayre in Ulster County, Somers in Westchester County, and New York City. In addition, he says the lower Esopus falls outside regulatory authority through the FAD.
Here’s Ulster County Executive Michael Hein on why he thinks legislators are holding their own public hearing.
Here’s Town of Saugerties Supervisor Kelly Myers.
The legislators and supervisors in the communities around the lower Esopus say the DEP’s turbid releases into non-watershed areas are unjust. Again, here’s Belfiglio, legislator from the Town of Esopus.
In an e-mailed statement, a DEP spokesman says DEP has always welcomed and appreciated input from its neighbors in the watershed, no matter the forum or subject matter. He adds that over the past few years, DEP has continued to meet regularly with local government leaders and other stakeholders to discuss releases from the Ashokan Reservoir, upcoming studies of the Lower Esopus Creek and other related topics.
Again, Saugerties Town Supervisor Myers:
Myers says the public hearing will give area residents and officials a chance to say they will not stand for their natural and economic resources to continue to be destroyed.
The DOH spokesman says that while outside the watershed, there was recognition of the issues being faced by communities in the Lower Esopus, and earlier discussions did include the potential for stream projects in the Lower Esopus. But it was determined that these issues would more appropriately be addressed outside of the FAD and in a consent order between DEP and the state Department of Environmental Conservation. At the end of August, it came to light that such revisions were omitted in the latest version of the FAD, upsetting several Ulster County stakeholders.
The Department of Health public comment period runs through October 15.