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Post date: August 18 1999

Ag Cites Key Development In Fight To Protect NYC Water Quality

Attorney General Spitzer today praised officials in Westchester County for taking action to prevent more than 1.5 million gallons of wastewater from flowing each day into a drinking water reservoir serving New York City and Westchester County.

"This vote is a huge victory for the millions of residents of New York City and Westchester County who expect and deserve clean drinking water," said Spitzer. "We should all raise a tall glass of New York City water and toast the elected officials of Westchester County who stood up to make this vital decision to protect drinking water quality and our environment."

Spitzer called the Aug. 17 vote by the Northern Westchester Watershed Committee to close the antiquated Yorktown Heights Sewage Treatment Plant "the single most important step taken to date to protect drinking water quality under the 1997 New York City Watershed Agreement."

The committee's action will now be considered by the Westchester County Legislature.

The Yorktown sewerage treatment plant has been plagued for years by serious operational problems, including three major raw sewage overflows into drinking water streams in 1999 alone. The State Department of Environmental Conservation has cited the plant for scores of violations of the Clean Water Act and it was the subject of litigation by Riverkeeper, a Hudson River environmental organization.

The Yorktown plant is the largest sewage treatment facility in the Watershed. It pumps more than 1.5 million gallons per day of treated human waste into waterways that flow directly into the New Croton Reservoir, a major source of drinking water for New York City and Westchester County residents.

If approved by the Westchester County Legislature, wastewater currently treated at the Yorktown plant will flow instead to the Peekskill Sewage Treatment Plant, which has significant excess capacity. The multi-million dollar diversion project will be the first expenditure from the "East of the Hudson Water Quality Fund," a $38 million pool of money provided to Westchester County by the City of New York to maintain and enhance the condition of the New York City Watershed under the 1997 Watershed Agreement.

The 2,000-square mile New York City Watershed includes 19 drinking reservoirs and aqueducts in Westchester, Putnam, Sullivan, Ulster, Greene, Delaware, Schoharie and Dutchess counties. The watershed provides drinking water to more than nine million residents of New York City, Westchester and Putnam counties.

Spitzer commended Westchester County Executive Andrew Spano; Yorktown Town Supervisor Linda Cooper; County Legislator Michael Kaplowitz and County Planning Commissioner Joyce Lannert for their leadership role on the water quality issue. He also cited the work of Assistant Attorney General James Tierney, who serves as the State-appointed Watershed Inspector General.

"This bold, forward-looking action will permanently remove over 1.5 million gallons of wastewater from New York City's and Westchester's drinking water each day," said Spitzer, whose office has been involved in this issue because of long term and chronic violations by the Yorktown Plant of state environmental conservation laws.