FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE98-44
October 14, 1998
Contact: Charles Sturcken / Cathy DelliCarpini 718-595-6600
DEP Refutes Criticism of Watershed Protection Efforts
In response to charges in a lawsuit filed today on behalf of the Hudson Riverkeeper and several grassroots environmental organizations, New York City Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) Commissioner Joel A. Miele Sr., P.E. said, "New York City is investing tremendous resources to protect and enhance our drinking water quality. In the year and a half that has passed since the signing of the Watershed Memorandum of Agreement (MOA), DEP has made significant progress towards the watershed protection goals the MOA laid out, particularly those regarding the acquisition of watershed lands, the implementation of revised Watershed Rules and Regulations, and the development of Partnership Programs. In addition, a major focus has been and will continue to be the enforcement of DEP's rules and regulations."
Commissioner Miele added, "The regulation concerning the construction of septic systems on land with slopes up to 20% is a State regulation the City is obliged to comply with. Consequently, this lawsuit not only is directed at the wrong party, it misleads the public into thinking that the City is not fulfilling its responsibilities under the MOA."
As of September 15, 1998, DEP has met the following major milestones:
- Land Acquisition The City exceeded the MOA's Year 1 goal by soliciting more than 56,609 acres, and is on target to meet the Year 2 goal of soliciting 51,266 acres. The City has acquired more than 3,265 acres of watershed land and has an additional 8,260 acres under purchase agreement. Under the MOA, the City agreed to solicit the owners of 355,050 acres of watershed land within ten years. In the last year, significant progress also was made toward: the acquisition of easements on watershed land; the implementation of the Whole Farm Easement Program; completion of the Floodplain Buyout Program; and the development of plans for allowing public access and recreational uses on City land, provided those uses are consistent with the goal of protecting water quality.
- Enforcement of Watershed Regulations One of the primary mechanisms for protection of the City's drinking water supply is the revised and enhanced Watershed Rules and Regulations. Since the promulgation of the new regulations, DEP has reviewed applications for over 1,000 new septic systems, 71 stormwater pollution prevention plans, 21 wastewater treatment plants and nearly 350 other projects. Also, DEP inspectors and watershed Police have issued over 750 Notices of Violation, as well as an additional 342 Environmental Conservation Law or Penal Law summonses.
- Partnership Programs In accordance with the terms of the MOA, the City made more than $88 million in first payments on April 21, 1997 to the watershed communities and programs outlined in the Agreement. Since then, regular payments have continued for a number of programs as required by the MOA.