The United States Environmental Protection Agency sued the City of New York in Federal Court on April 24, 1997 to force the construction of a billion-dollar filtration plant for the Croton Watershed. The State of New York joined the action as an intervenor on the EPA's side a few weeks later.
On June 16, 1997 the Croton Watershed Clean Water Coalition (CWCWC) and various individuals filed a motion to intervene in the case.
The CWCWC is an alliance of more than twenty-five community and environmental organizations (including the Friends of the Croton Watershed) in favor of protecting the watershed rather than allowing its degradation. The individuals are residents of Bronx, Manhattan, Putnam and Westchester Counties who are water users, rate payers, and tax payers not represented by any of the three dysfunctional government bureaucracies.
John Klotz, attorney for the CWCWC et al in this case, notes in the motion that water from the Croton watershed currently meets all federal health standards and will do so into the next century.
According to data gathered by the New York City DEP, and accepted by the EPA as valid, the level of cryptosporidia is lower in the Croton Watershed than in the Catskill-Delaware which has been granted filtration avoidance -- something you would never know from reading the inflammatory press releases of the EPA.
The EPA argument that they are acting in the interests of public health has no scientific basis. In fact, filtration can pose more dangers than benefits to the public health. A malfunction in the Milwaukee state-of-the-art system in 1993 resulted in over 100 deaths. Keeping water clean is more effective than trying to clean it after it has been polluted.
At the June 19th meeting of the ever-popular CAC (Croton Citizens Advisory Committee), the DEP reported on the court case. They admitted that the City was not fighting for filtration avoidance, but was willing to sign a consent decree mandating the building of the billion-dollar filtration plant. Asked who was in charge of making such a decision, they answered, "The Mayor."
If we are admitted to the court as intervenors, this unscientific, undemocratic deal will not be accepted.
The judge's decision to accept or deny the motion for intervention should be made by the end of July. In the meantime, the CWCWC is seeking Yorktown water rate-payers to add their names to the intervention. If you are interested, contact Paul Moskowitz at 962-4569.
At a tax payers' meeting with Sue Kelly in Yorktown on April 19th Friends of the Croton Watershed RoseMarie Panio, Paul Moskowitz and Mickie Grover raised the issue of the EPA's intransigent position on filtration for the Croton Watershed. I noted that the federal agency's insistence that New York build a billion-dollar plant was, in effect, an unfunded mandate and Mr. Moskowitz pointed out the lack of scientific data showing filtration was needed.
As a result of the meeting Congresswoman Kelly has sent a letter to Carol Browner, head of the EPA, expressing concern over the high cost of a filtration plant -- a cost that would be borne, in part, by rate payers she represents.
In addition, Ms. Kelly has co-sponsored H.R. 1284 introduced by Congressman Engel. This bill would give municipalities which missed the EPA's 1992 deadline for applying for filtration avoidance a second chance to do so.
Some in Yorktown seem to think that adding an enormous, ugly and toxic industrial site to our fair town will lower taxes. This is a common temptation dangled before tax payers whenever anyone wishes to build a large project. As we know from Jefferson Valley and other developments, the promised tax benefits are higher than the monies that materialize after construction. In this case, since a filtration would be associated with the aqueduct and would be built by a state-charted agency, it might never pay taxes to its host town or city.
A development, as we again know from our experience with Jefferson Valley, never pays for itself. The increase in services (including police, town infrastructure, and increased school age population) more than offsets any tax levy.