|Vol. 12, No. 7
||April 8 -
By JORDAN MOSS
What is the Croton Water Supply System?
New York City gets its water from three water
systems -- Croton, Catskill and Delaware. Croton, which
lies to the east of the Hudson, is the smallest and
oldest of the three and supplies New York City with 10
percent of the city's average daily demand of 1.4 billion
gallons per day and up to 30 percent in times of drought.
The Croton is made up of 12 reservoirs and three
controlled lakes on the Croton River and its tributaries
and branches in Westchester, Putnam and Dutchess counties
in New York and Fairfield County in Connecticut.
Filtration is currently not required for the
Catskill/Delaware system, which supplies the city with
the remaining 90 percent of its waters supply.
Who Drinks Croton Water?
Nine million people in New York City and
Westchester County. Croton water is mostly used in
low-lying portions of the Bronx -- west of the Jerome
Park Reservoir in Kingsbridge, and in portions of the
south and east Bronx. Much of Manhattan's west side and
large sections of its east side are also served by the
Croton system. Because the Croton occasionally serves
other portions of the city during droughts, the city
believes it cannot afford to avoid filtration by
"turning off" the Croton.
Who is requiring the city to filter the water
In 1992, to comply with the federal Safe
Drinking Water Act, the city entered into a
"Stipulation Agreement" with the New York State
Department of Health to filter Croton water. The city had
the opportunity to apply for filtration avoidance for the
Croton. It didn't do so because, according to the Draft
Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS) "there was
consensus technical opinion that Croton water would
require filtration." Though the watershed currently
meets all health-based water quality regulations, it
often violates the standards set for color, and is
expected by regulators to violate new health-based
standards for disinfection byproducts.
Because local officials took too long to pick a site
for the filtration plant, the federal government took the
city to court. The suit was settled last year and the
city agreed to push forward with site selection, design
and construction according to a strict timetable.
Construction must begin by September 2001.
In light of this, is filtration avoidance
Depends on who you ask. The U.S. Environmental
Protection Agency (EPA) is unequivocal -- the city must
filter and that's that, agency officials say. Though it
is studying ways to avoid filtration, the DEP says it has
no choice but to proceed according to the design and
construction schedule dictated by the agreement it made
with the federal government in court last year.
Some activists argue that if the DEP really wanted to
it could convince the EPA to give it more time to study
the possibility of avoiding filtration in the Croton.
Legislation, authored by Bronx Congressman Eliot
Engel, would give New York City another chance to apply
for a filtration avoidance under the Safe Drinking Water
Act. Engel says the newest version of the bill has a
better chance of passage because it is broader and less
focused on New York than previous incarnations.
For more information on filtration avoidance, see
article entitled Against the Clock, Activists Push
for Filtration Avoidance..
Why are so many people opposed to filtration?
There are many reasons. Community residents fear
a quality-of-life nightmare with increased noise,
traffic, and dust during years of construction.
In the watershed towns upstate, many activists believe
a filtration plant will open the doors to developers who
will argue that pollution of the watershed will be
"fixed" by the filtration plant downstream.
Filtration foes also point to the fallibility of what
is essentially a giant machine and argue that there is no
better filter than Mother Nature herself. They propose
greater protections for the water system and enhancement
of natural filtration systems like wetlands.
On the other side of the issue, the city's
construction unions and contractor groups strongly
support the project because of the jobs it will create.
Where is the city proposing to build the
On Dec. 1, 1998, the city Department of
Environmental Protection (DEP) announced its proposal to
build a $660 million, 11-acre filtration plant at Mosholu
Golf Course in Van Cortlandt Park (see map on opposite
page). The choice was a surprise for a number of reasons:
it was a last-minute add-on to the list of proposed sites
last spring; there were seven other sites under
consideration in the Bronx and Westchester, two of them
in remote, industrial locations, and because the Jerome
Park Reservoir has been in the city's sights for the
plant for decades.
Is the Mosholu Golf Course site a done deal?
No. The authors of the City Charter and the
voters who ratified it provided for a six-month land
review process when any such project is proposed. The
proposal, and that's all it technically is at this point,
must climb a ladder from the lowest levels of city
government to the highest. The plan has already been
unanimously rejected by all three community boards
surrounding Van Cortlandt Park and the borough board,
which includes the Bronx City Council delegation, the
borough president and the community board chairs. Next up
is the City Planning Commission, which is where the city
will probably score its first victory. The commission is
weighted in favor of the mayor since he appoints seven of
its members, including the chair. Six other members are
appointed by the five borough presidents and the public
advocate. If the commission votes for the proposal, the
City Council will get to vote, because of the earlier
"no" votes at the community board and borough
levels. If the Council rejects the plan, the mayor can
veto that vote, but the council can override the veto
with a two-thirds vote of its members.
And if the proposal dies in the Council, it's back to
the drawing board for the DEP. The agency will have to
identify another site.
If the site is approved, community and parks
organizations are considering lawsuits on the grounds of
parks alienation and environmental justice.
Community activists are supported by virtually all of
their city, state and federal representatives in their
opposition to the plant.
Why didn't the city choose Jerome Park
Community opposition is widely credited. A
stunning man-made lake surrounded by residences and
schools, the Jerome Park Reservoir had a committed
constituency fighting to protect it from the very
beginning. Over several years, hundreds of meetings,
protests, and rallies galvanized community sentiment in
Kingsbridge Heights, Van Cortlandt Village, and later in
Bedford Park, against the plant. Opponents believed the
construction of the plant, involving digging, drilling,
blasting, and hundreds of daily truck trips, would wreak
havoc with the area's quality of life and destabilize a
Why did it choose the Mosholu Golf Course?
According to the DEIS, construction at the golf
course "would result in the least potential for
significant impacts and there would be no significant
impacts posed by the operation of the facilities."
Many residents and elected officials, citing two
Westchester sites on the DEP's list, disagree. The
supervisors of the towns of Mt. Pleasant and Greenburgh
expressed interest in hosting the plant at either of two
remote sites separated by Route 100C. The sites are
industrial plots formerly used by Union Carbide.
How long will the plant take to construct?
According to the milestone dates set forth in
the Consent Decree, construction must begin by September
1, 2001 and the plant must be operational by March 1,
What will it look like, how big will it be?
The filtration plant is to be built under the
Mosholu Golf Course, which is to be restored after
construction. ("All facilities and functions would
be replaced and enhanced," the DEIS states.) But it
will be elevated 35 feet above its current grade in the
eastern portion of the site. The filtration plant will
occupy 11 acres but the entire project is expected to
affect 23 acres of park land. The DEP estimates the loss
of 45 trees during construction which it plans to
replace. Park advocates say there won't be enough soil on
top of the plant to sustain trees and other landscaping
and that the flat cover over the facility is no
substitute for the rolling topography that exists there
What organizations are involved in this issue
and how can I contact them?
The Mosholu Woodlawn South Community Coalition
is the Norwood affiliate of the Northwest Bronx Community
and Clergy Coalition, a 25-year-old grassroots
organization that covers 10 neighborhoods. phone:
655-1054; e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
The Friends of Van Cortlandt Park is
dedicated to the protection and improvement of the park.
phone: 601-1460; e-mail: email@example.com
Croton Watershed Clean Water Coalition
is an organization of watershed activists from New York
City and upstate. phone:914-234-3179; e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
The Norwood-Bedford Park Consortium
consists of representatives from community organizations
in Norwood and Bedford Park. phone: 882-4000
Bronx Council on Environmental Quality
is a borough-wide advocacy group. phone: 885-3822;
The Friends of Jerome Park Reservoir maintains a
website devoted to filtration and other watershed issues.
It includes a number of links to other pertinent sites.
The New York City Department of Environmental
Protection is the agency that oversees the
siting and construction of the filtration plant. phone:
595-6565; website: http://www.ci.nyc.ny.us/dep
(the draft environmental impact statement is available at
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency
is the federal agency requiring the city to build the
filtration plant. phone: 212-637-3000; website: http://www.epa.gov
The Norwood News keeps an archive of past
filtration stories on this website: Click on "ongoing
stories." For more information, e-mail: email@example.com
or call 920-6300.
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