State Health Department Releases Draft Revisions to NYC's Waiver from Filtering Drinking Water from the Catskill/Delaware Water System

Revisions will Help Ensure System Continues to Supply High-Quality Water

ALBANY. N.Y. (August 23, 2013) - After extensive review of New York City's (NYC) 2007 Filtration Avoidance Determination (FAD), State Health Commissioner, Nirav R. Shah M.D., M.P.H., today announced that revisions to the 2007 FAD have been drafted and will be released for public review and comment. The FAD describes the NYC watershed protection plan and the strict water quality standards that NYC must meet to continue to avoid filtering its Catskill/Delaware water supply. The revisions will enhance NYC's existing watershed protection plan and help to ensure the water system in the City continues to supply high quality water to nearly half the population of New York State.

"The New York State Department of Health is committed to ensuring a safe and sustainable drinking water supply for all New Yorkers," said Commissioner Shah. "The draft midterm revisions of the New York City Filtration Avoidance Determination demonstrate collaborative public health efforts of all watershed stakeholders to enhance the continued protection of the watershed, which provides almost half of New York State's population with their drinking water."

"Seventeen years ago, the EPA spearheaded an historic agreement with New York City, New York State, upstate watershed communities and environmental groups that required a commitment from New York City to protect the source of the city's drinking water in the Catskill/Delaware watershed," said Judith A. Enck, EPA Regional Administrator. "Protecting the source of water that nine million people drink every day is of critical importance."

NYC is one of five large water systems in the country that has been granted a waiver from the requirement to filter its surface water supply. New York City's waiver (FAD) was first granted by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in 1993 and was renewed in 1997, 2002 and 2007. In 2007, EPA transferred primary enforcement authority for NYC's FAD to the New York State Department of Health (DOH). The 2007 FAD was written to cover a 10-year period; however, it was required to be reviewed after five years, and for revisions to be made if necessary. In 2011, DOH initiated discussions with NYC's Department of Environmental Protection, including the EPA and the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation, regarding the proposed requirements for the second term of the 2007 FAD. DOH also conducted outreach to watershed communities, environmental groups, watershed program partners, elected officials, and the general public, to solicit input on the FAD. The draft requirements of this revised 2007 FAD reflect the multiple interests in NYC's watershed, while maintaining focus on the importance of NYC's drinking water supply to public health protection.

The revised 2007 FAD draft continues most of NYC's existing watershed protection programs, including their Land Acquisition Program, and has added enhanced requirements. Notably, in response to the devastation caused by Tropical Storms Irene and Lee in 2011, the FAD draft includes provisions for NYC to fund a local flood hazard mitigation program, which will seek to reduce future flood impacts and help vulnerable watershed residents relocate out of floodplains. NYC will also provide the cost-share for properties participating in federal flood buy-out and emergency watershed protection programs and will create a NYC-funded flood buy-out program.

Additionally, the revisions include a number of requirements to address the occurrence of suspended sediments, or turbidity, in the Catskill system after large storm events. NYC is required to complete an increased number of stream restoration projects aimed at turbidity reduction, conduct a study to evaluate the effectiveness of these types of projects, report on a study to identify the major sources of turbidity, and increase the overall funding for its Stream Management Program.

Also new to the revised 2007 FAD, NYC will be required to fund Precision Feed Management on eligible watershed farms, which can reduce contamination of water by excess nutrients, and a Septic Repair Program for NYC FAD reservoir basins that are east of the Hudson River. NYC will continue funding the construction of wastewater management systems for a number of communities in the Watershed, and will conduct a study to determine the need for a wastewater system in the Hamlet of Shokan in Ulster County.

The FAD revisions were developed after gathering input from watershed communities, city residents and other stakeholders, including public meetings in Delhi, Belleayre, Somers and New York City when the revision process began. DOH along with the EPA, New York State Department of Environmental Conservation and New York City Department of Environmental Protection urge the public to review and comment on the revised draft FAD. The public comment period will remain open until Oct. 15,2013. Written comments on the draft revised 2007 FAD may be sent by mail to: NYSDOH Attn: Pamela Young, Empire State Plaza, Corning Tower Room 1110,Albany, NY 12237; or electronically to: Comments will be accepted through Oct. 15, 2013.