Feds say NYC should stop Ashokan releases

Muddy water from the Esopus meets the Hudson by the Lighthouse in early 2011

Find another way to deal with turbidity and stop sending chocolate-colored water — for the most part — down the lower Esopus Creek, recommends Jeff Gratz, deputy director of U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Clean Water Division in its comments on the Order on Consent between New York City Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) and New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) regarding the water releases from Ashokan Reservoir.

“We’re very pleased that the Federal government has weighed in with comments that are very much in alignment with Ulster County’s position,” remarked Ulster County Executive Mike Hein.


The county’s comments to DEC indicate that the problem existed before Hurricane Irene, but the EPA refers to last year’s megastorm, stating, “These severe weather conditions, which may occur with more frequency, have caused EPA to reconsider its position regarding the use of the release channel.”

Gratz’s letter goes on to recommend that DEP eliminate operational releases from the Interim Protocol, “pending completion of the planned environmental review, which will provide for a complete evaluation of environmental conditions in the lower Esopus Creek.”

The Interim Protocol is a document drafted in response to the county’s protest over the damage caused to downstream properties by turbid water releases since the fall of 2010. The protocol provides for three types of releases.

Operational releases are designed to siphon off muddy water in order to protect the quality of the New York City drinking water, reducing the need for alum to purify drinking water, since the EPA has determined that excessive alum is harmful to human health.

Community releases consist of clear water, seen as beneficial to downstream habitat, agriculture, and recreation.

Flood mitigation releases are intended to draw down the water level in the reservoir prior to expected storms, providing both turbidity control to New York City and flood control for the lower Esopus.

EPA says community and flood control releases should remain in the Interim Protocol, while alternative means of turbidity reduction should be sought by DEP, in order to replace the operational releases. The Consent Order should be beefed up to include a reopening of the DEP’s structural and engineering analysis of alternatives for turbidity control — the analysis that originally led to the reopening of the Ashokan release channel. Specifically, Gratz encourages “construction of the Shaft 4 connection, which allows diversion of Delaware system water into the Catskill Aqueduct,” thereby introducing more clear water into the system that has required alum treatment.

At this point, Shaft 4 is scheduled to be completed by March 31, 2015.

The EPA’s comments do not refer to the financial penalty that the county requested the DEC impose on DEP to reimburse landowners along the lower Esopus for damage to property. Philip Sweeney, director of the New York City Watershed Oversight Program, said fines are not within the EPA’s purview in this case but would be determined by DEC.

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  1. Lia Marrero

    Fuel oil leak cleanup in Pepacton Reservoir
    ….divers found a four inch diameter pipe protruding through the sediment at the bottom of the reservoir. The pipe is capped….Ghost Wells? 48,000 exist in NYS…could the Desiel Fuel ozzing pipe 2500 gallons removed so far…..and another tank forun with gasoline….next to aqueduct intake…..Pay attention this may be affecting the Ashokan….36 million gallons of Desiel fuel were dumped into fracking fluids between 2005 and 2009 illegaly….being only 30 miles from the Pa Boarder where Fracking Rules the earth…NYS may be feeling the force of the fluids being shoved into the earth…they may be returning to the surface via Ghost Wells…..48,000 Ghost Wells create a two fold Hazards for NYS By Lia Marrero
    Val Washington (well qualified as a prior Deputy Commissioner for the DEC and Regional Attorney for NYS DEC…) Stated at the Utica College Hydrofracking Forum Nov 9th 2011, that “The DEC has identified over 48,000 “ghost wells” in NYS, uncapped oil and gas wells from the 40’s and 50’s which are extremely difficult to locate. Another 30,000 were capped but those caps need to be redone every decade if not more frequently due to the new pressures added by HIGH VOLUME SLICKWATER HORIZONTILE HYDRAULIC FRACKTURING or “FRACKING”. The cost of this fallible preventive maintenance is now in the Billions and upward! The DEC has close ONE HUNDRED DOLLARS available for each well to assist in their capping being collected by taxing newly permitted wells… No wonder they are not being found despite the 1000 foot search for them before a new well is drilled. The cost of contamination to an aquifer…can not be estimated in merely dollars for is cannot be undone. These Abandoned Oil and Gas wells pose a very SERIOUS 2 fold hazard potential:
    1) They may provide a vent for the upward migration of Toxic/ radioactive frack fluid [see “The Truth about Fracking,” by Chris Mooney] in the Nov 2011 issue of Scientific America.
    2) A second potential catastrophe exists because these Ghost Wells also provide a location for criminals to dump toxic waste fluid. Report any incident to police, acting on your own could be very dangerous. Industry evades responsibility and liability by subcontracting INDEPENDENT truck drivers to transport toxic industrial Frack waste fluids.
    The fact that our Government would consider permitting High Volume Hydraulic Fracturing without remediating the Ghost Well hazard potential in NYS highlights their inability to asses risk properly or protect the Environment from this physical and financial toxic asset. Example: DEP Provides Update On Pepacton Reservoir Oil Leak http://www.nyc.gov/html/dep/html/press_releases/12-31pr.shtml “….divers found the immediate source of the leak to be a 4-inch diameter pipe that is protruding through the bottom sediment. Although capped, the pipe has several small holes which are allowing some product (believed to be diesel fuel) to escape. Additionally, a second point, approximately 12” from the pipe, on the bottom of the reservoir is showing signs of leakage. “….could this be one of 48,000 GHOST WELLS lurking in NYS which become portals for the upward migration of fracking fluids being shoved down into the earth elsewhere???? This would not be the first case nor the last now that GOV CUOMO plans to allow Horizontal Fracking in the Southern tier of NYS…where most of these GHOST WELLS LURK……Drink Diesel Gov! Bottoms Up! Between 2005 &2009 oil & gas industries “Fracked “our country using DESIEL FUEL dispite REGs NOT EXEMPTING them from doing so! 36 MILLION GALLONS were shoved illegally into our Country’s belly! Regulation has defied enforcement and Ghost Wells exist! We need not go to Fracking Hell.

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