FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE97-31
May 21, 1997
Contact: Geoffrey Ryan (718/595-5371)
Watershed Regulations Go Into Effect
Commissioner Joel A. Miele Sr. of the New York City Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) announced today that the "Rules and Regulations for the Protection from Contamination, Degradation and Pollution of the New York City Water Supply and Its Sources" went into effect on May 1st, replacing the 1953 version. The new regulations, which will become part of the New York State Health Code and were published earlier this year in newspapers across the watershed, are part of the Watershed Memorandum of Agreement that was negotiated among, and signed by, watershed counties and communities, the State, the City, the federal Environmental Protection Agency and environmental groups. The Commissioner also described DEP's organization and enforcement units in the watershed.
"Since the Watershed Memorandum of Agreement and the Watershed Regulations only recently went into effect," said Commissioner Miele, "it is important that people understand how DEP is organized in the upstate watersheds and how DEP will enforce the regulations and other environmental laws. I want to stress that the major thrust of the regulations is to ensure that new projects are designed and constructed in ways that protect water quality in the watersheds of the City's reservoirs."
In anticipation of the City's watershed protection program going into effect, DEP re-organized its upstate offices in June, 1996, and created the Bureau of Water Supply, Quality and Protection. Under the direction of a Deputy Commissioner, the Bureau is dedicated to the management and operations of the City's upstate water supply system and to the implementation of all facets of the watershed agreement. The Operations and Engineering Division manages the infrastructure of the upstate water supply system - City-owned reservoirs, dams, gate houses, wastewater treatment facilities, bridges, roads etc. The Division of Drinking Water Quality Control operates upstate and in-City laboratories and monitors water quality throughout the streams, reservoirs, aqueducts and water mains of the system. The Division of Watershed Planning and Community Affairs oversees the Land Acquisition and Stewardship Program and engages in watershed protection planning efforts with officials and citizens of local communities.
DEP's Police are responsible for, and cooperate with local police and sheriff departments on, law enforcement throughout the watershed. Since August of 1996, DEP has hired and trained 13 new police officers. The Police are organized in four divisions -- the Croton, Catskill and Delaware Divisions, plus an Environmental Enforcement Division that carries out criminal investigations of polluting conditions that may be violations of the watershed regulations, as well as state and federal environmental laws.
Units within the Operations and Engineering Division review proposed development projects and inspect wastewater treatment facilities, and a new Protection Unit inspects septic systems and other possible sources of pollution throughout the watersheds. The police and inspection units are supported by the expertise of the engineers and scientists in the Drinking Water Quality Control and Operations and Engineering Divisions.
Commissioner Miele said, "Obviously, we need the police and inspection units to ensure that water quality is not subverted by deliberate or unintentional activities that pollute the streams, ground water and reservoirs of the watershed. However, the City is not primarily interested in prosecuting violators and collecting fines. We want to protect the watershed from contamination and prefer that people bring problems to our attention before we have to conduct investigations and issue summonses. Our engineers and inspectors are always available to help citizens develop solutions to correct polluting conditions."
Recent activities of the DEP Police Division have included:
- An investigation by the Environmental Enforcement Division of a restaurant in Brewster that was pumping raw sewage into a storm drain which feeds directly into the Croton River and a Croton System reservoir. The restaurant was issued a summons under the New York State Environmental Conservation Law, which allows for penalties of not less than $2,500 and up to $25,000 per day, as well as imprisonment for up to one year. The restaurant is cooperating in replacing its wastewater treatment system.
- Under the Kensico Environmental Enforcement Program, DEP Police cooperated with police departments in Mount Pleasant and North Castle, Westchester County, on investigations of large scale graffiti on the Kensico Dam. The investigation resulted in the arrest of two men by North Castle police.
- An investigation of a malfunctioning oil separator discharging into a stream at a railroad yard in Brewster resulted in no summons being issued as the incident was deemed accidental and the operator immediately cooperated in correcting the condition.
- Investigations are continuing into encroachments on City property, illegal dumping at the Pepacton and Rondout Reservoirs, and possible stream violations in Delaware and Greene Counties.
- New York State Environmental Conservation officers and DEP Police have been working together in Delaware County on investigating a water quality violation, illegal dumping by a trailer truck, and the investigation and clean-up of a 100-gallon fuel spill as a result of a truck accident.
- Several summonses have been served under penal law for trespassing near dams, reservoir intakes and other high security infrastructure.
- Numerous Notices of Warning, plus several summonses under the State Environmental Conservation Law, have been issued for trespassing in restricted zones around the reservoirs.
- Summonses have been issued for operating uninsured and unregistered all-terrain vehicles and motorcycles at the Catskill Aqueduct in Westchester.
- Several summonses have also been issued for parking vehicles on fire access roads at the reservoirs. (Local fire departments must have access to water in the reservoirs, so that they can fill tanks on their trucks.)
- Additionally, DEP Police assisted local enforcement agencies in apprehending several felons, responding to vehicular violations and accidents, investigating criminal mischief incidents around the reservoirs, and other incidents.
- DEP Police also responded to brush fires on City property and assisted local fire departments in their efforts.
Since May 1st, inspectors in the Protection Unit have issued seven Notices of Violation for failing subsurface treatment systems (septic systems) and one for an unapproved construction project. These Notices also would have been served under the 1953 regulations. Another six cases are under review. Additionally, inspectors are investigating activities, such as junk yards, whose operations may be regulated under the new regulations.
Operations and Engineering units are currently reviewing proposals for 210 projects which must conform to the new regulations. The projects range from single lot proposals to multi-lot residential sub-divisions to a timber harvest project. All are carefully reviewed for their adherence to the new regulations.
"It is important that responsible economic development continue to take place in the watershed," said Commissioner Miele. "It is essential, however, that projects conform to the new regulations and other environmental laws so that protection of water quality is an integral part of any development."
"I encourage everyone to phone the DEP Police Headquarters at their 24-hour telephone number whenever they observe activities that may cause pollution in the watersheds of the City's reservoirs," said Commissioner Miele. "Citizen complaints about polluting activities are our first line of defense in protecting the water quality of the streams, wetlands and reservoirs of the watersheds. We will prosecute all violators of environmental laws and regulations to the full extent of the law."
The 24-hour DEP Police number is: 914/245-6694.
The full regulations and the complete 1,800-page Watershed Memorandum of Agreement are available for review at every County and Town Clerk Office in the watershed, as well as DEP offices at Downsville, Grahamsville, Shokan, Valhalla, and Katonah. They are also available for review at the Municipal Reference & Research Center in Manhattan.