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April 8, 2015

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Department of Environmental Protection Investigating Sheen at Schoharie Reservoir

The New York City Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) is investigating an oily sheen that was discovered Monday afternoon near the Shandaken Tunnel Intake Chamber at Schoharie Reservoir. The sheen was discovered about 2:30 p.m., several hundred feet down shore from the intake. Water supply operators successfully prevented it from leaving the reservoir by shutting down the intake chamber and installing an absorbent boom around the intake structure. As a result, it did not pose a threat to drinking water. The state Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) and Department of Health (DOH) were immediately notified. Local, state and federal elected officials have also been updated.

The sheen had dissipated and was no longer visible as of Tuesday morning. A preliminary investigation found that the sheen was likely coming from a previously undiscovered tank that was washed into Schoharie Reservoir in 2011 by Hurricane Irene. Shifting ice and low water levels likely dislodged the tank and caused the sheen. On Monday, DEP retrieved several water samples from the area expressing the sheen to determine its source and severity. Results are expected by mid-week. DEP plans to reactivate the Shandaken Tunnel once the substance is identified and the intake chamber is appropriately protected.  As an extra precaution, DEP will also install an absorbent boom where the tunnel discharges into Esopus Creek.

DEP will continue to monitor the sheen and develop plans to remove the tank once the ice melts and its location is pinpointed. The department will also replace boom around the intake chamber as needed, and install containment boom around the sheen if it reappears.

Schoharie Reservoir stores up to 19.6 billion gallons of water that is collected from a 314-square-mile watershed. It diverts the water through the 18-mile Shandaken Tunnel, which discharges into the Esopus Creek where it travels another 5 miles before entering Ashokan Reservoir. From Ashokan Reservoir, the water flows south through the Catskill Aqueduct to New York City.

DEP manages New York City’s water supply, providing more than one billion gallons of high quality water each day to more than 9 million New Yorkers. This includes more than 70 upstate communities and institutions in Ulster, Orange, Putnam and Westchester counties who consume an average of 110 million total gallons of drinking water daily from New York City’s water supply system. This water comes from the Catskill, Delaware, and Croton watersheds that extend more than 125 miles from the City, and the system comprises 19 reservoirs, three controlled lakes, and numerous tunnels and aqueducts. DEP has nearly 6,000 employees, including almost 1,000 scientists, engineers, surveyors, watershed maintainers and other professionals in the upstate watershed. In addition to its $70 million payroll and $157 million in annual taxes paid in upstate counties, DEP has invested more than $1.7 billion in watershed protection programs—including partnership organizations such as the Catskill Watershed Corporation and the Watershed Agricultural Council—that support sustainable farming practices, environmentally sensitive economic development, and local economic opportunity. In addition, DEP has a robust capital program with nearly $14 billion in investments planned over the next 10 years that will create up to 3,000 construction-related jobs per year. For more information, visit, like us on Facebook, or follow us on Twitter.

More Information

NYC Department of Environmental Protection
Public Affairs

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

(718) 595-6600