Hein wants Lower Eso­pus im­pacts con­sid­ered in reser­voir re­view

Daily Freeman (Kingston, NY) - - LOCAL NEWS - By Wil­liam J. Kem­ble news@free­manon­line.com

Ul­ster County Ex­ec­u­tive Michael Hein would like to see equal weight given to im­pacts on the Lower Eso­pus Creek as well as wa­ter­shed ac­tiv­i­ties in an en­vi­ron­men­tal re­view of New York City’s ap­pli­ca­tion for a fil­tra­tion avoid­ance de­ter­mi­na­tion.

At a news con­fer­ence tout­ing an up­com­ing National Ge­o­graphic story on the county’s steps to pro­tect the en­vi­ron­ment, Hein said the city’s re­leases of up to 600 mil­lion gal­lons per day of muddy wa­ter into the Lower Eso­pus must be con­sid­ered as part of the city’s ef­fort to avoid build­ing a fil­tra­tion plant.

“I firmly be­lieve ... those things are part of the FAD (fil­tra­tion avoid­ance de­ter­mi­na­tion) and should be part of the FAD, be­cause if it’s not con­sid­ered in that re­spect, it’s not seen as the to­tal­ity of the en­tire sys­tem that ex­ists,” Hein said.

The city Depart­ment of En­vi­ron­men­tal Pro­tec­tion uses the Lower Eso­pus Creek to flush tur­bid, or muddy, wa­ter from the city-owned Ashokan Reser­voir, but an en­vi­ron­men­tal re­view of the im­pacts of that flush­ing has never been con­ducted.

“As we ad­dress the chal­lenges we have with the Lower Eso­pus, with the New York City Depart­ment of En­vi­ron­men­tal Pro­tec­tion, our per­spec­tive is very clear: We’re go­ing to fight to make sure that there was clean wa­ter, that there (were) recre­ational dis­charges, that there was a whole host of ac­tions,” Hein said. “We still have much work ahead of us on that front to make sure that we pro­tect those res­i­dents that live along the Lower Eso­pus.”

New York City is re­quired to get state Depart­ment of Health ap­proval ev­ery 10 years, along with a mid-term re­view, to avoid con­struc­tion of a wa­ter fil­tra­tion plant that has been es­ti­mated to cost be­tween $25 bil­lion and 40 bil­lion.

“The FAD re­lates only to ac­tiv­i­ties in the wa­ter­shed that New York City is re­quired to take to meet ob­jec­tive wa­ter qual­ity stan­dards for un­fil­tered sur­face wa­ter sup­plies,” Adam Bosch, a spokesman for the city Depart­ment of En­vi­ron­men­tal Pro­tec­tion, said in an email. He said the “mat­ter of re­leas­ing wa­ter from Ashokan Reser­voir into the Lower Eso­pus Creek is sep­a­rate from those ac­tiv­i­ties, and it’s be­ing han­dled un­der a sep­a­rate process.”

Hein, along with mu­nic­i­pal of­fi­cials along the Lower Eso­pus Creek and sev­eral watch­dog groups, dis­agree with the city’s po­si­tion and have asked ei­ther the state Depart­ment of En­vi­ron­men­tal Con­ser­va­tion or the state Depart­ment of Health to take over the lead agency role for en­vi­ron­men­tal re­views of the fil­tra­tion avoid­ance de­ter­mi­na­tion. Among their ar­gu­ments is lan­guage in the ex­ist­ing fil­tra­tion de­ter­mi­na­tion that iden­ti­fies the creek as a sig­nif­i­cant “tool” to con­trol tur­bity.

The groups have pointed to the fil­tra­tion avoid­ance de­ter­mi­na­tion it­self as stat­ing the re­leases are specif­i­cally iden­ti­fied, with the city it­self se­lect­ing “mod­i­fi­ca­tion of reser­voir op­er­a­tions as the most fea­si­ble al­ter­na­tive for re­duc­ing tur­bid­ity lev­els” in the wa­ter sys­tem. The doc­u­ment adds that in the “re­main­ing pe­riod of the 2007 FAD, the over­all goal of this pro­gram will con­tinue to be to con­trol tur­bid­ity” in the Catskill Aqueduct, which starts at the Ashokan Reser­voir.

Re­leases from the Ashokan Reser­voir are con­ducted through what en­gi­neers iden­ti­fied as a “waste chan­nel,” which was a term used by the city un­til five years ago when it al­tered years of press re­leases to call it a “re­lease” chan­nel. It was iden­ti­fied for use in tur­bid­ity con­trol fol­low­ing stud­ies that were part of “re­quire­ments of the 2002 FAD,” and be­gan op­er­a­tions in 2010 to re­duce the need for chem­i­cal treat­ment to set­tle solids in wa­ter sent from the Ashokan Reser­voir to the Ken­sico Reser­voir in Westch­ester County.

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