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EPA Issues Interim Filtration Avoidance Determination To NYC For Its Catskill-Delaware Water System

Release Date: 01/21/1997
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(#97043) New York, N.Y. -- The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) today issued an interim determination, tied to the signing of a multi-party watershed protection agreement that will allow New York City to continue to avoid the filtration of drinking water taken from its Catskill-Delaware system.

EPA Regional Administrator Jeanne M. Fox signed the interim filtration avoidance agreement today as she joined New York State Governor George Pataki and New York City Mayor Rudolph Giuliani in the signing of a multi-party Catskill-Delaware watershed protection agreement at a ceremony in Albany, N.Y. EPA's interim filtration avoidance determination details the measures that must be taken to protect the watershed and allow the City to continue to provide safe, high quality drinking water without building a filtration system. The watershed protection agreement, slightly modified from a draft agreement released in September 1996, calls for numerous cooperative steps to prevent pollution in the upstate watershed.

"The watershed agreement has been strengthened to include more opportunities for public review," said Fox. "Now the public can review and comment on compliance twice within the first five years after the watershed agreement is implemented. Through these comment periods, the public can help identify areas of the agreement that may need to be changed. The agreement now also ensures that New York City water consumers will be represented on the Technical Advisory Committee."

Today's interim filtration avoidance determination will be effective until April 15, 1997. Once the city's watershed rules and regulations and land acquisition program become fully effective, EPA will issue a longer-term determination, to be effective until April 15, 2002, that will allow the City to continue to protect the quality and safety of its drinking water through vigilant source and watershed protection instead of by filtration.

The Catskill/Delaware public water system, which provides 90% of New York City's drinking water, continues to meet federal raw water quality and disinfection standards. An extensive program to monitor for the presence of waterborne disease has been instituted by New York City.

"Today's watershed protection agreement and the interim filtration avoidance determination make environmental and economic sense for the people of New York -- but we must be ever-vigilant," Fox said. "Safe, clean water is everyone's right. EPA will monitor the implementation of today's watershed protection agreement and our filtration avoidance determinations to evaluate their effectiveness in protecting public health."

EPA issued an initial filtration avoidance determination to New York City in 1993. Both the interim determination signed today and a longer-term determination that EPA intends to sign this spring contain significant requirements including installation of microfiltration, or equivalent high-level treatment at sewage treatment plants, to protect against parasites such as cryptosporidium and giardia; strict new limits on phosphorus discharges; and an aggressive program to acquire, on a willing-seller basis, watershed properties critical to water quality protection. In addition, New York City must continue programs started under the 1993 determination, including waterborne disease surveillance, groundwater monitoring to assess septic system impacts, spill response, waterfowl management, a Watershed Agricultural Program and other protective measures.

At the same time that the city is carrying out its watershed protection programs, the filtration avoidance determination requires the city to design a filtration system that could be built if watershed protection is not sufficient to protect public health. In keeping with this dual track approach, the city must submit a draft preliminary design for filtration facilities by December 31, 2000 and a final design by December 31, 2005. Construction of the filtration system would be required if it is determined that the City is failing to meet the federal Surface Water Treatment Rule (SWTR), designed to protect human health.

EPA will retain primary enforcement authority to enforce the SWTR for the Catskill-Delaware system until 2007, and it will closely monitor the implementation of the watershed protection measures and evaluate their effectiveness in meeting the requirements of the federal rule. In support of this evaluation, provisions for state-of-the-art monitoring and evaluation are included in the recent amendments to the federal Safe Drinking Water Act.

For more information contact:
Mary Mears, Press Office
EPA Region 2
290 Broadway
NY, NY 10007-1866
Voice: 212-637-3669 FAX: 212-637-5046 E-Mail: