Washington, DC -- Congressman Eliot Engel (D-NY-17) said the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) should abandon the construction of a cover over the Hillview Reservoir in Yonkers.  The Congressman joined several of his colleagues to insist that the EPA grant a waiver to their mandate to build the cover. 

“I am very much in favor of the EPA protecting our drinking water, but in this case, it is unnecessary.  The cover would be redundant, as New York City will have an ultraviolet disinfection capability to treat the City’s water supply for the same pathogens the cover is designed to prevent.  The appropriate response to the EPA is, ‘Keep up the good work, but in this case, thanks but no thanks,’” said Rep. Engel, a senior member of the House Energy and Commerce Committee.

The 12-term Congressman added that building the cover would seriously disrupt the neighborhood abutting the reservoir. “New York City is already spending $1.6 billion on a facility in Mount Pleasant, north of the reservoir, to combat this problem by using ultraviolet light.  There is just no reason to adversely affect the quality of life for residents by building something unnecessarily.  Building a cover, putting grass on it, but not having it available to residents, does not make it parkland.  This project will also have an negative impact on the surrounding communities through a major and disruptive construction project.”

New York City’s drinking water system is the largest in the nation, and provides service to over nine million people in the City and its suburbs.  The cost to residents for this cover would be an estimated $1.6 billion, and likely will result in another substantial raise in water rates.  New York City’s rates have risen 134 percent since 2002, and more than 91 percent since 2006.  The cover is designed to protect the water from animal and bird droppings, which contain pathogens.  The EPA claims the cover would prevent up to 365,000 cases of cryptosporidiosis.  However, the New York City Health Department reports the city has only about 100 cases annually.

“We have seen from the construction of the filtration plant in Van Cortlandt Park, where costs increased from the original estimate of $900 million, to the current cost of $3 billion, that final price tags tend to be dramatically larger than initial estimates.  So we may assume the $1.6 billion estimate for the cover would rise dramatically.  Plus, New York conducts more than 500,000 water quality tests annually to assure the water is pure.  The EPA should continually point out risks and target potential problems.  However, the bottom line in this case is that we have this situation covered already,” said Rep. Engel.