Kirsten Gillibrand United States Senator for New York

  1. Skip to navigation
  2. Skip to content
Print | Send to Friend | Font Size:

Gillibrand Urges EPA To Reject $1.6 Billion Unfunded Federal Mandate To Cover Hillview Reservoir

$1.6 Billion Mandate Would Place Economic Burden on New York City Residents, Have Little Impact on Public Health

July 21, 2011

New York, NY – With New York City facing the forced implementation of an unfunded $1.6 billion federal agency mandate to cover the 90-acre Hillview Reservior that would have little public health benefit and place an unnecessary financial burden on City residents, U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), a member of the Senate Environmental Public Works Committee, urged Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Lisa Jackson to reject and lift the mandate. Senator Gillibrand pointed out that with City efforts already underway to build the world’s largest ultraviolet water disinfection facility to protect one of the country’s largest water systems from pathogens and parasites, the redundant order would have only a minor public health impact at a burdensome cost for New Yorkers. Gillibrand questioned Ken Kopocis, nominee for Assistant Administrator of the Office of Water within the Environmental Protection Agency, during his nomination hearing in the Senate earlier this week.

In a letter to EPA Administrator Jackson, Senator Gillibrand wrote, “I am concerned that the $1.6 billion unfunded mandate to cover the 90 acre Hillview Reservoir, located north of the City, would place an undue sizable financial burden on New York City residents, while only achieving a minimal public health benefit… I ask for your support… to prevent the implementation of a redundant system that would have little public health benefit at enormous cost to New York City… Forcing New York City to build a redundant protection system would place an unnecessary economic burden on the people and government of New York.”

The EPA requires New York City to build a concrete cover over Hillview Reservoir, which would likely add a 3% increase in water rates for New York City residents on top of a 90% increase over the last five years. New York City Department of Health estimates there are only 100 cases of cryptosporidium reported each year, in a City of over 8 million residents, and in a recent study of the Hillview Reservoir, did not find it to be a source of concern for these pathogens. For nearly a century, the Hillview Reservoir has delivered safe, clean drinking water to millions of City residents without a single major health incident.

Earlier this week, Senator Gillibrand raised her concerns with Ken Kopocis, nominee for Assistant Administrator of the Office of Water within the Environmental Protection Agency. Mr. Kopocis called the New York City Watershed as a national model for how watershed’s are used for drinking water, and agreed to work with Senator Gillibrand on this critical issue.

The full text of Senator Gillibrand’s letter is below:

Dear Administrator Jackson,

As I raised at the Nomination Hearing of Ken Kopocis to become Assistant Administrator of the Office of Water within the Environmental Protection Agency on July 19, 2011, I am deeply troubled by the unintended consequences posed to New York City by the Long Term 2 Enhanced Surface Water Treatment Rule.  Specifically, I am concerned that the $1.6 billion unfunded mandate to cover the 90 acre Hillview Reservoir, located north of the City, would place an undue sizable financial burden on New York City residents, while only achieving a minimal public health benefit.  At the hearing Mr. Kopocis agreed to work with my office on this issue, and I ask for your support, as well, to prevent the implementation of a redundant system that would have little public health benefit at enormous cost to New York City. 

The New York reservoir system is the largest and most expansive water system in the United States.  The Hillview Reservoir alone has delivered safe, clean drinking water to millions of New York City’s residents for more than 95 years without a single major health incident.  New York City performs more than 500,000 water quality tests each year, ensuring that the water delivered to residents is potable and free of contaminants.  Furthermore, in an effort to address the very concerns raised by EPA, NYC is already building the world’s largest ultraviolet water disinfection facility, which would kill the pathogens that cause ailments such as cryptosporidiosis before they enter the reservoir system.  Located in Westchester, the Catskill-Delaware Water Ultraviolet Distinction Facility, which is slated to cost more than $1.5 billion and capable of treating 2.2 billion gallons of water each day, will further protect these water resources from pathogens and parasites.                

Additionally, the New York City Department of Health (NYCDOH) approximates that there are 100 cases of cryptosporidium reported each year, in a City of over 8 million residents.  In a September 2010 study conducted by the City’s Department of Health, the Hillview Reservoir was not cited as a source of concern for Cryptosporidium or Giardia. 

Forcing New York City to build a redundant protection system would place an unnecessary economic burden on the people and government of New York.  Water rates for New York City residents have increased by over 90% in the last 5 years, and the unfunded requirement to build a concrete cover over this reservoir would further increase these rates by as much as 3%. 

If implemented as is, the current Long Term 2 Enhanced Surface Water Treatment Rule would be extremely burdensome on the City of New York. I urge you to work with the City of New York, which has a long and successful history of cooperation with the EPA, to find an effective and more economical option to achieve the same water quality and public health goals.

Thank you for your attention to this critical issue.