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December 21, 2001

Contact: Geoff Ryan (718/595-6600)

Drought Conditions Cause DEP to Call a Moratorium on Percolation and Deep Soil Tests in Watershed

Commissioner Joel A. Miele, Sr., P.E. of the New York City Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) announced today that drought conditions throughout the watersheds of the City's reservoirs have caused the agency to suspend acceptance of percolation and deep soil tests conducted after December 13th. The Health Departments of two watershed counties — Westchester and Putnam — had instituted their own moratoria, as they had in the drought of 1995, in advance of DEP's action.

"The eight counties of the watershed are suffering from a precipitation deficit of more than ten inches, and the State Department of Environmental Conservation has issued a drought warning for the area," Commissioner Miele said. "Results of percolation and deep soil tests obtained in these extraordinarily dry soil conditions are not reliable enough to ensure that septic systems are installed in appropriate locations that will protect water quality. As a sanitary engineer, I would not want to install a septic system in an area that may be dry in a drought, but have saturated soils during years of normal rainfall. That can only lead to improperly functioning septic systems, causing contamination of the environment, streams and reservoirs, as well as problems for the owner of the defective system down the road."

"We have been experiencing an unusually warm autumn, which has provided a longer than normal season for percolation and deep hole testing this year, and we appreciate and regret that this moratorium may inconvenience some watershed residents. We hope and expect that precipitation during the winter months will restore water to the soils, as well as the reservoirs, and that testing can resume as usual after the spring thaws."


More Information

NYC Department of Environmental Protection
Public Affairs

59-17 Junction Boulevard
19th Floor
Flushing, NY 11373

(718) 595-6600