by Dara L. Miles
January 12, 2009
Turn on the tap and New Yorkers get completely unfiltered H2O, flowing from the upstate streams and rivers to faucets from the Bronx to Brooklyn.
Since 1993, the U. S. Environmental Protection Agency has exempted New York City from its filtration requirement, making it only one of a handful of major U. S. cities that does not have to filter its water before letting its citizens gulp. The city’s system is the largest unfiltered water delivery system in the country.
Now, some New York City officials worry that anticipated gas drilling will jeopardize the water supply of more than 9 million people in the city and several upstate counties. Gas producers want to drill into the Marcellus Shale formation, part of which lies upstate. They would then inject millions of gallons of water treated with chemicals in order to extract what experts believe could be trillions of cubic feet of natural gas.
Proponents of the drilling say tapping the state’s deep reserves of natural gas could bring a bonanza of royalties, jobs and tax revenues to cash-strapped upstate communities and help ease the state’s budget crisis. Officials closer to New York City, however, say compromising the quality of the city’s drinking water is too high a price to pay. They want the state to ban gas drilling in the watershed.
City Councilmember Jim Gennaro, who chairs the Environmental Protection Committee, has sounded the alarm about the potential cost of filtering the city’s water. Gennaro has cautioned fellow committee members — and anyone else who will listen — that a filtration system could boast a price tag in the billions.
“What the people of the City of New York, I fear, are looking at is a $20 billion consequence to this ‘drill baby drill’ policy,” Gennaro said.