Recent actions taken by New York City will make its water safer to drink, declared U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Mike Leavitt today at a City Hall event.
Administrator Leavitt joined Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg to celebrate the city's purchase of the 50,000th acre of upstate land from which the city gets 90 percent of its drinking water. The city has been purchasing land under the provisions of a waiver, issued by EPA, that allows the city to not filter this portion of its drinking water. Instead, the city is required to protect the watershed from contamination.
While it must also protect the Croton watershed, which supplies 10 percent of the city's drinking water, New York City is required to filter this portion of its supply to ensure safe drinking water into the future. The city announced today that it will spend $25 million to buy land in the Croton Watershed.
"The New York City Watershed Partnership is one of the finest examples of the kind of collaboration needed to make successful watershed protection possible," Leavitt said. "By protecting the Catskill/Delaware watershed, we not only protect the water consumed by nine million people, we protect the beauty of the land from which it flows. I'm also pleased that the city is furthering its efforts to protect the watershed for its Croton Water Supply. While Croton water must be filtered, watershed protection is still a smart investment because it further safeguards the water and helps preserve what is, in that area of New York State, very limited open space."
Under the Safe Drinking Water Act, all drinking water taken from surface water sources must be filtered to remove microbial contaminants. The law allowed EPA to waive this requirement for water suppliers if they could demonstrate that they have an effective watershed control program and that their water meets strict quality standards. In January 1993, EPA granted such a waiver, called a Filtration Avoidance Determination (FAD), to New York City for drinking water coming from the Catskill/Delaware watershed. The FAD was predicated on the city's implementation of a number of specific long-term watershed protection measures. Land Acquisition is a key element of the EPA's determination. The FAD has been revised, enhanced and updated. The most recent version was issued in 2002.