The signing of the New York City Watershed Agreement by federal, state, county and municipal agencies has left the Croton system shamefully neglected compared with the Catskill/Delaware system. This lack of protection means that the Croton will have to be filtered at tremendous cost which will be reflected in water rates, whereas sufficient protection is offered the Catskill/Delaware to avoid filtration.
Within the last two months, more than twenty community and environmental groups from New York, the Bronx, Westchester and Putnam Counties, representing over 35,000 members, have joined to create the Croton Watershed Clean Water Coalition (CWCWC). The Coalition has been formed to maintain, protect and improve the quality of the waters in the Croton watershed through regional action in order to avoid filtration of the Croton system.
"Less protection translates into further degradation of the watershed reservoirs and their tributaries. The false sense of security created by filtration is conducive to careless over-development and more pollution - a vicious cycle that is hard to stop." stated CWCWC president Marian Rose, member of the Lower Hudson Group of the Sierra Club.
In support of this view, the Watershed Agreement states that: "Although both federal and state laws propose filtration as a method of water quality treatment for pathogen control, the effectiveness of the filtration process and complexity of plant operation is dependent upon the quality of the water entering the filtration plant. In addition, many contaminants are not removed by filtration." Indeed, scientific evidence as well as the lethal experience in Milwaukee in 1993 when 100 persons died and 300,000 were sickened from cryptosporidium in the drinking water, in spite of a state-of-the-art filtration plant, proves that filtration is not the answer.
"Our communities are being asked to bear the burden for clean water for an entire region," stated Tina Argenti, Chair of the Friends of Jerome Park Reservoir where a large filtration plant is being proposed. She continued: "Why should they be destroyed because New York City decided to clean up its act in the Catskill/Delaware watershed region, but not in the Croton?"
It may come as a surprise that New York City still permits the discharge of effluent from its sewage treatment plants into its watershed basins. It is the only major, unfiltered surface water system in the U.S. to do so.
Filtration is not the only option. The CWCWC supports sustainable ecological approaches to protect and purify the Croton water supply. "Watershed protection is more reliable in terms of human health protection than centralized filtration. It is also far less costly, and its environmental effects are far less destructive," said Paul Moskowitz of the Friends of Croton Watershed.
The decision to filter the Croton has not been based on any previous scientific studies. Before more taxpayers' money is spent, the CWCWC calls for an independent, impartial study of the alternatives to filtration - not the study that is presently being conducted by the engineering firms which have been hired to build the filtration plant.
With growing support, the CWCWC promises to be an effective advocate for the Croton watershed and the public health.
Croton Watershed Clean Water Coalition member groups include:
Amalgamated/Park Reservoir Housing Corp.,
Bedford Barrow Commerce Block Assoc.,
Bronx Water Alliance,
Bronx Council on Environmental Quality,
Bronx Water Alliance,
Central Westchester Audobon Society,
Chelsea Reform Democratic Club,
Citizens for Parkland,
Concerned Citizens for Open Space,
Concerned Residents of of Carmel,
Concerned Residents of of Kent,
Concerned Residents of Southeast
Coordinated Council of Cooperatives,
Coordinated Housing Services,
Council of Chelsea Block Associations,
Croton Heights Community Association,
East Harlem Council for Community Improvement,
East Harlem Restoration Project,
El Faro Beacon Community Center,
Episcopol Dioces of New York - Region II,
Friends of the Clearwater - New York City,
Friends of the Croton Watershed,
Friends of Jerome Park Reservoir,
Freinds of the Great Swamp,
Friends of Van Cortlandt Park,
The Gaia Institute,
Housing Development Fund Corporation Coalition,
Kingsbridge Heights Neighborhood Improvement Association,
Lower Manhattan Greens,
Neighborhood Housing Services of NYC,
Northwest Bronx Community & Clergy Coaltion,
Park Reservoir Housing Corporation,
Putnam County Fish and Game Association,
Putnam County Tree advisory Association,
Scarsdale Audobon Society,
Scott Tower Cooperative Associations,
Sierra Club - Atlantic Chapter,
Sierra Club - Lower Hudson Group,
Sierra Club - Mid-Hudson Group,
Sierra Club - New York City Group,
Sierra Club - Ramapo-Catskill Group,
Southern Yorktown Homeowners,
Trout Unlimited - Croton Watershed Chapter,
Yonkers Audobon Society,
List updated - August, 1998.