U.S. Attorney, EPA Sue Westchester Over Safe Drinking Water Act

Aug 8, 2013

Credit malias, flickr

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and U.S. Attorney are suing Westchester County for alleged violations of the federal Safe Drinking Water Act.

The U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York and the EPA filed the civil lawsuit against Westchester, alleging that the county’s Water District Number 1 fails to fully treat a significant portion of its water for the parasite cryptosporidium. Ned McCormack is a spokesman for County Executive Rob Astorino.

Water District Number 1 supplies drinking water to about 300,000 residents in Yonkers, Mount Vernon, and White Plains, the Village of Scarsdale and the Town of North Castle. McCormack says the portion of the district out of compliance is in the northern part of that water district, for Scarsdale and White Plains.

He says to be in compliance, the water needs to be treated with ultraviolet radiation. He says the water is already treated with chemicals. The complaint filed by the U.S. attorney and EPA says the deadline was April 1, 2012, and the county has been violating federal regulations to treat public drinking water for cryptosporidium since. The lawsuit seeks fines of up to $37,500 a day the county was out of compliance.

Peter Harckham is the Democratic Majority Leader on the Westchester County Board of Legislators. He says he has a lot of questions.

Manhattan U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara, in a statement, says, in part, quote, “Westchester’s prolonged failure to comply with treatment rules designed to prevent cryptosporidiosis is unacceptable.” End of quote. Cryptosporidium can cause gastrointestinal illness and potentially be fatal for individuals with compromised health.

Here’s McCormack.

Both McCormack and Harckham say this has been a longstanding issue, though Harckham says both the lawsuit and what he describes as an ill-fitting short-term approach are disappointing.

IMA refers to intermunicipal agreement. EPA regional Administrator Judith Enck, also in a statement, says, quote “Westchester County has an obligation to protect the public and come into compliance with the Safe Drinking Water Act. In 2013, it is hard to believe there is resistance to taking action to prevent water-borne diseases.” End of quote.

Again, here’s Republican County Executive Astorino spokesman Ned McCormack.

He says he thinks full compliance is attainable by next summer. Calls to the EPA were referred to the U.S. attorney’s office, where a spokesman declined to comment because of the pending lawsuit.