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You are here: Home Content Neighborhood News Westchester County To Pay $1.1 Million Penalty for Failure to Supply Safe Drinking Water
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Westchester County To Pay $1.1 Million Penalty for Failure to Supply Safe Drinking Water

cryptosporidiumWestchester's own U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara and the EPA have hit the county with a civil penalty of $1,108,771, the largest civil penalty ever imposed under the Safe Drinking Water Act on the operator of a public water system. Westchester County agreed to pay the fine for their non-compliance with regulations designed to treat the water supplied to Water District #1 that includes, Scarsdale, White Plains, Mount Vernon and Yonkers for Cryptosporidium. This parasite can cause severe gastrointestinal illness.

Since April 2012, the county was required to treat unfiltered surface water for Cryptosporidium which poses the greatest risk to young children, pregnant women and the elderly.

By signing the consent decree, the county admitted to failing to comply with the enhanced water treatment rule. Westchester is required to spend approximately $10 million in capital improvements to treat the water with UV light and while the improvements are in process the county will need to reduce the amount of non-compliant water supplied to Water District #1 and enhance monitoring of water from the Kensico Reservoir.

Commenting on the consent decree, Scarsdale's Deputy Village Manager Robert Cole said, "The Village of Scarsdale is appreciative of continuing efforts to ensure that our drinking water is subject to the highest standards of treatment. Importantly, maintaining and improving infrastructure is a fiscal challenge at all levels of government. Local, county, and state governments need to understand our collective infrastructure needs and prioritize investments such that our most critical needs are addressed first and in the most cost-effective manner. Varying levels of government need to genuinely work together to address infrastructure needs through coordinated planning and investment, thereby delivering the greatest taxpayer value and benefits. It is unfortunate when scarce infrastructure resources begin to get consumed by legal fees and penalties, rather than invested in our necessary projects."

In the meantime, Scarsdale is required to distribute information about the water issue in billing statement to residents and online at the Village website.

The insert assures residents that Scarsdale's water quality has not changed, saying, "Scarsdale drinking water users should be advised that water quality has not declined below the standard that water customers have enjoyed for decades – the supply is subject to the same water safety treatment protocols that have maintained drinking water in Scarsdale for many years, including appropriate chlorination to inactivate other organisms such as giardia, bacteria, and viruses."

However it does issue a warning to those with severely compromised immune systems, infants, pregnant woman and the elderly about drinking the water.

The EPA requires Scarsdale to let users know that "Inadequately treated water may contain disease-causing organisms. These organisms include bacteria, viruses, and parasites which can cause symptoms such as nausea, cramps, diarrhea, and associated headaches."kensicoreservoir

As part of the consent decree, water samples from the Kensico Reservoir will continue to be collected on a weekly basis and tested for the presence of Cryptosporidium. This will go on until new UV treatment plants are opened at the Orchard Street Pumping Station and at the Central Avenue Pumping Station, both in White Plains. Work is expected to be completed at Orchard Street in May, 2017 and on Central Avenue in March, 2018.

Water in the Kensico Reservoir is currently monitored by the County as required by a consent decree between the County and the U.S. EPA. The test results are available on the County web site. Here is a link to the test report for December 2015.

Who will pay the fine? Robert Cole says, "Westchester County will decide which funding source to use for paying the fine. Of course, no matter the accounting, Westchester County taxpayers end up paying the fine, as County revenues are collected through a combination of taxes and fees charged to Westchester County residents."

Are you concerned about the quality of our water? Tell us what you think in the comments section below.

Photo from the CDC website

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