The Department of Justice and the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) have filed suit under the federal Safe Drinking Water Act against the city of New York and the New York City Department of Environmental Protection “for their longstanding failure to cover the Hillview Reservoir”. A consent decree requiring the city to make improvements and cover the reservoir at an estimated cost of US$2.975bn and to pay a US$1m civil penalty was also lodged with the court.
“Today we take the necessary steps to fix a serious public-health problem,” said assistant attorney general Jeffrey Bossert Clark for the Department of Justice’s Environment and Natural Resources Division. “Congress enacted the Safe Drinking Water Act to ensure that every American has access to safe water to drink. And we vindicate that Act by ensuring in our enforcement action that the City of New York will comply with this federal law by protecting against contaminants aerially deposited into the Hillview Reservoir, which millions of New Yorkers depend for their everyday drinking water needs.”
The reservoir is part of New York City’s public water system. It is an open storage facility and is the last stop for drinking water before it enters the city’s water tunnels for distribution to city residents. The 90-acre reservoir is divided into two segments, the east and west basins. Prior to the water entering the reservoir, it receives a first treatment of chlorine and ultraviolet treatment. Since the Reservoir is an open storage facility, the treated water in the Reservoir is subject to recontamination with microbial pathogens from birds, animals, and other sources, such as viruses, Giardia, and Cryptosporidium, said the Department of Justice.
The consent decree requires construction of two projects in addition to the cover, the Kensico Eastview Connection (KEC) and the Hillview Reservoir Improvements (HRI). The KEC entails the construction of a new underground aqueduct segment between the upstream Kensico Reservoir and Eastview ultraviolet treatment facility. The HRI requires extensive repairs to the Hillview Reservoir, including replacing the sluice gates that control water flow and building a new connection between the reservoir and water distribution tunnels. The city estimates the construction cost of the KEC to be approximately US$1bn and the cost of the HRI to be approximately US$375m.
Following the completion of the KEC and the HRI, the East Basin cover will be constructed, with expected commencement of full operation in 2042, and then the West Basin cover will be constructed, with expected commencement of full operation in 2049. The City’s estimate in 2009 for the cost of its then planned concrete cover for the 90-acre Reservoir was US$1.6bn.