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NYC Drinking Water Safety Feared

Water Fountain - NYC New York City officials have demanded a ban on natural gas drilling near upstate reservoirs because they fear the drilling could contaminate the city’s drinking water…

City’s Drinking Water Feared Endangered; $10B Cost Seen – August 6, 2008 – The New York Sun

New York is one of just four major cities in America with a special permit allowing its drinking water to go unfiltered, and that pristine water comes from a network of reservoirs and rivers in five upstate counties. If the special permit was revoked, the city would have to build a treatment facility that could cost nearly $10 billion, a senior official at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Walter Mugden, said.

It’s quite amazing to think of a City the size of New York as having a pristine water supply, the only other cities in America to not require filtration are Boston, San Francisco, Seattle and Portland, Oregon. All that is done to New York’s water is a dash of chlorine with fluoride, orthophosphate and sodium hydroxide as other additives.

[ad#125-right]However, all is not as it seems in the watershed, New York has frequent issues with turbidity, and development is playing havoc with the quality…

On the Water Front – New York Times

To win another five-year reprieve from filtration, the city, working with federal officials, has drawn up a detailed plan to regulate the upstate watershed. It includes managing farms and forests to keep manure and fertilizer out of streams; controlling erosion along stream banks; chasing migratory waterfowl from reservoirs; buying land within the watershed to prevent development; repairing leaky septic tanks on private land; and cleaning the water in sewage treatment plants even more thoroughly before it is discharged into the watershed. “I’ve heard of plant operators drinking it on a tour,” said Mr. Schindler, referring to the last plank of the plan. That’s reassuring, but more than two dozen of the roughly 100 wastewater treatment plants that discharge into the city’s watershed still use a sub-optimal cleaning process.

Even the largest cities, despite their boasting of clean water have skeletons in the closet. Septic systems, development, fertilizers, erosion are a reality of suburban sprawl and poorly designed and managed development and infrastructure.

See Wikipedia for more on New York’s Water System.

Mike Thomas

Mike Thomas P.Eng. ENV SP, is the author of UrbanWorkbench.com and Director of Engineering at the City of Revelstoke in the Interior of British Columbia, Canada. If I post something here that you find helpful as you navigate the world of engineering, planning and building communities, that’s wonderful. But when push comes to shove: This is my personal blog. The views expressed on these pages are mine alone and not those of my employer.