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For Release: Wednesday, May 23, 2012

NYSDEC Reaches Draft Order with NYC to Reduce the Impacts of Turbidity in Catskill Water System

Public Information Session on Draft Order and Interim Protocol Set for June 19

A draft consent order to reduce the impacts of turbidity and manage reservoir releases to improve water supply, water quality and habitat, and provide flood mitigation in the New York City watershed and the Lower Esopus was reached by the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation and the New York City Department of Environmental Protection, DEC Commissioner Joe Martens announced today. The draft consent order provides measures with a goal of decreasing the need for aluminum sulfate to be used in the Catskill Water Supply System.

A public 45-day comment period on the draft order and the Ashokan Reservoir Interim Protocol for water release management will run through July 2. A public information session on both the draft order and the Interim Protocol will be held June 19 at SUNY New Paltz. Comments will be reviewed and considered in the development of the final order and revised Interim Protocol.

"The draft order with New York City provides concrete actions to improve water quality, habitat and flood mitigation in the Catskill Water System," DEC Commissioner Martens said. "The City's commitment to implement the requirements of the order is a major step to reduce the impacts of turbidity in area waterways. The Interim Protocol offers a path to protect the watershed until a more complete set of improvements can be considered and implemented. The Interim Protocol proposed a way to protect New York City's water supply for nine million people and address community and environmental impacts. DEC wants to hear from stakeholders on how we can improve this protocol."

"As one of only five large cities issued a Filtration Avoidance Determination by the EPA, New York City has clearly made substantial investments to ensure that our water supply system continues to provide clean, safe drinking water to over nine million residents - and that commitment includes reducing the effects of turbidity in the Catskill watershed," said New York City Department of Environmental Protection Commissioner Carter Strickland. "Working diligently with watershed communities, the Department of Environmental Conservation and DEP developed rigorous guidelines for operating the Ashokan Release Channel to reduce the impacts of turbidity and flooding. We are pleased that this agreement solidifies the Interim Protocol, and look forward to the results of the comprehensive analysis we will undertake during the Environmental Impact Statement process."

Under the draft order, the City will be required to prepare an environmental impact statement (EIS) to analyze alternative methods and potential significant adverse impacts of operating the Catskill Water Supply System. The EIS will consider various options to reduce the impacts of turbidity including the continued use of aluminum sulfate, releases using the Interim Protocol and options to discharge water from various points along the Catskill Aqueduct, including the Hudson River, prior to its reaching the Kensico Reservoir. The draft order also requires the City to deliver the draft scope for the EIS to DEC within 60 days after the consent order is effective. DEC will issue the draft scope for public comment. The draft EIS is required to be completed within 18 months after DEC issues a final scope and the draft Final EIS by a date determined by DEC. In addition, the draft order:

  • requires the City to adhere to the Interim Protocol for releasing water from the Ashokan Reservoir to the Lower
  • Esopus Creek and a Water Quality Monitoring Plan in the Ashokan Watershed which are expected to result in a reduction in the impact of turbid discharges and protection of habitat in the Lower Esopus Creek. The City is required to comply with the Interim Protocol and Monitoring Plan until a Final Protocol is developed through a full public process and incorporated into the modified Catalum SPDES Permit;
  • establishes a schedule for removal of alum particulate from the Kensico Reservoir by June 2024 when major capital infrastructure projects are complete;
  • establishes a deadline of December 2012 for the City to propose two turbidity-reduction projects on the Upper Esopus Creek and commits the City to allocate $750,000 to fund these projects; and
  • requires the City to pay a Civil Penalty of $1.55 million of which $100,000 is payable; $500,000 is suspended pending timely completion of the infrastructure and alum particulate removal projects; and $950,000 is provided in escrow to EFC to fund environmental benefit projects which include:
    • $350,000 for two stream gauges on the Lower Esopus;
    • $200,000 to develop a stream management plan for the Lower Esopus;
    • $330,000 to implement the recommendations of the Lower Esopus stream management plan;
    • $60,000 for a technical review consultant to advise the Ashokan Releases Working Group; and
    • $10,000 for fish stocking in the Lower Esopus.
  • establishes a schedule for the modification of the Catalum SPDES Permit; and
  • establishes that DEP has consented to DEC as the lead agency in the SEQRA EIS process for the Catalum SPDES Permit modification and a range of associated issues.

The consent order can be viewed on the DEC website.

In October, DEC released an Interim Protocol for releases from the Ashokan Reservoir. More information on the Interim Protocol can be found on the DEC website.

DEC's public information session on both the draft order and Interim Protocol will include presentations by DEC staff. Comments will be accepted at the information session in writing and verbally as time permits. The meeting will be held from 6 pm to 8 pm on June 19 at:

SUNY New Paltz
1 Hawk Drive
Lecture Center - Room 100
New Paltz, NY

Comments may be submitted by July 2 via email, or by mail to:

NYSDEC
Division of Water, Bureau of Water Resource Management
625 Broadway
Albany, NY 12233

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