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Report Shows High Quality of NYC's Drinking Water

tap water
William Warby, flickr

A report from a Hudson Valley environmental group finds that the quality of New York City drinking water remains high, but there are potential threats that need to be monitored.

Riverkeeper has released a multi-year study evaluating New York City’s unfiltered drinking supply, a supply that comes from New York City’s Department of Environmental Protection watersheds

Kate Hudson is watershed program director for Westchester-based Riverkeeper.

Yet she says there are potential threats to water quality. One she describes as not yet a threat but in need of monitoring. She says contaminants from pharmaceuticals and personal care products have showed up in trace amounts and are of emerging concern because of their possible impacts on human health and aquatic ecosystems. Riverkeeper urges the DEP to resume its testing for such contaminants to spot any developing trends. A statement from the DEP says, quote, “New York City’s drinking water is recognized throughout the world for its quality and purity and more than half a million tests each year confirm it is safe.”

Hudson says another potential threat is hydraulic fracturing. The future of the controversial natural gas drilling process remains unclear in the state.

In fact, DEP’s commissioner testified before the state Department of Environmental Conservation in 2012, mentioning a request for a seven-mile infrastructure Exclusion Zone, where no high-volume hydrofracking would be permitted, around the Delaware and Catskill Aqueducts that begin at the Rondout and Ashokan Reservoirs, respectively. These two aqueducts currently carry 100 percent of the water to New York City, and the DEP commissioner said even non-catastrophic leaks or liner collapse would have significant consequences for DEP’s ability to meet in-city and upstate water demand. Governor Andrew Cuomo recently said he would decide before the 2014 election whether to allow fracking.

Riverkeeper’s Hudson says another threat involves an ongoing, complex, and controversial issue.

Another threat– lead contamination - has nothing to do with the water supply itself.

She says running the water a few minutes before use should help.

DEP manages New York City’s water supply, providing more than one billion gallons of water each day to more than 9 million residents, including 8.3 million in New York City, as well as residents of Ulster, Orange, Putnam, and Westchester counties. This water comes from the Catskill, Delaware, and Croton watersheds that extend more than 125 miles from New York City.

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