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Environmental Enforcement: New York State Seeks $2.6 Million Fine from NYC

The New York state Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) is asking a judge to impose a $2.6 million fine against New York City for releasing more than 40 billion gallons of muddy water into a Catskills-area creek over a four month period, the Wall Street Journal reports.

According to a complaint filed last week by DEC, New York City violated state and federal environmental laws when it discharged the water from the Ashokan Reservoir into the lower Esopus Creek between October and late January.

The state agency has asked a judge to fine New York City $2.6 million for what it calls its “illegal conduct,” the Times-Herald Record reports.

DEC’s complaint is also asking the court to restrict discharges to the lower Esopus Creek to those approved by the agency, and for the city to submit plans for the operation of the Ashokan Reservoir that have been overdue since 2008.

Local residents and government officials began complaining about the creek when it turned a deep brown last October. New York City’s Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) had begun pumping as much as 600 million gallons of clay-laden water daily into the creek through a waste channel at the Ashokan Reservoir.

New York City stopped the releases Jan. 28 and flushed the creek with approximately 1.5 billion gallons of clean water. DEP told the Times-Herald Record Wednesday that after flushing the creek, turbidity “quickly returned to levels that are found in other streams.”

The releases of turbid water may not continue beyond the forseeable future, however.  New York City is building an interconnect tunnel and filtration plant near the reservoir, and contends will solve water turbidity problems when the projects are finished in approximately three years.  Until then, releases to remove dirt from water in the Catskill system, which supplies approximately 40 percent of New York City’s daily drinking water, are necessary, according to DEP.

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