City water supply system at risk
by Daniel Bush
Jun 16, 2009 | 3036 views | 0 0 comments | 97 97 recommendations | email to a friend | print
New Yorkers who take their clean water for granted could be in store for an unpleasant surprise, unless companies are blocked from drilling for gas near the city’s upstate watershed area.

The issue of protecting the city’s water supply, which is stored in reservoirs in Croton and in the Catskills Mountains, was brought home to Western Queens last week when Gary Giordano, CB5’s district manager, urged the community board to adopt a resolution opposing the proposed drilling.

Giordano, who was honored at the June 10th meeting for his 20-year tenure as district manager, called the fight the single most important one of his career.

“In the 20 years I’ve been district manager, this is the most frightening situation that I know of that could possible affect the residents of New York,” Giordano said.

With the advance of new technology, energy companies have begun pushing to drill for gas in the Marcellus Shale, an underground formation - part of which lies in the city’s upstate watershed area - that experts believe contains huge natural gas reserves.

Energy companies plan to use an improved horizontal drilling method known as hydraulic fracturing, or “hydro-fracking,” wherein water mixed with ecologically-damaging chemicals is injected into subsurface to help extract the gas.

Current regulations allow companies to drill within range of the Catskill reservoirs, raising concerns with environmental groups across the state that the city’s water supply system could become contaminated.

“The future health of our children and grandchildren is at risk,” said Brian Dooley, CB5’s Environmental Committee chair. “This is not only an environmental issue, it’s a health and human services issue and on top of that an economic issue.”

The city has spent billions in recent decades to maintain its water supply system. Dooley said if drilling is allowed to go on, and it causes contamination, the state would have to shell out for an expensive water filtration system.

“It’s going to be an environmental disaster if it goes on,” Dooley said.

For the second straight month, Giordano urged CB5, as well as community boards across the city, to pass a resolution opposing the drilling in order to put pressure on the city to step out against the plan.

Dooley said the Environmental Committee is in the process of drafting a resolution that could be presented at the next board meeting.

“We as a city really need to pay attention to this,” Giordano said, “to make sure [companies] trying to turn a big profit don’t take advantage of people.”

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