Water Watch NYC

Everything you need to know about water in NYC.


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De Blasio Proposes One-Time Water Bill Credit for All Small NYC Homeowners

Dressed in an ash grey suit with a periwinkle tie, Mayor Bill de Blasio exclaimed, “Today we are righting (sic) a wrong”.  Back in late April in Bay Ridge, Mayor de Blasio developed a plan for New York City homeowners to save money on their water bills by having the city present a one-time water credit to all homeowners within the five boroughs.

“This is part of an overall effort to address the needs of everyday working people all over the city to make sure that what city does is fair,” proclaimed de Blasio.

The push for this proposal was de Blasio’s belief that homeowners within the five boroughs were paying too much for their water bills. Backed by the Department of Environmental Protection’s Commissioner Emily Lloyd, de Blasio proposed a $183 one-time water bill credit to all homeowners with one to three family units within the five boroughs.

According to de Blasio, the proposed bill would cover about 664,000 homeowners for the summer. The 664,000 homeowners make up about 80 percent of all water bill accounts. With this one-time bill credit, homeowners can save 17 to 40 percent on their annual water bill.

Seniors who make up 120,000 of the total amount of homeowners residing in the city will also benefit greatly from an additional bill credit.

“This action we are announcing today will save homeowners across all five boroughs a total of 82 million dollars in fiscal year 2016, the fiscal year we are in right now. Eighty-two million,” said de Blasio.

According to the DEP, this credit program has already passed water board committee members and will be in effect as of July 1st. This is the first step in a series of changes the mayor is attempting to put into effect for water use policies.

 


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New York City officials should look at Puerto Rico’s crisis and recognize the danger they are in.

water blogMany have heard of Puerto Rico’s recent financial crisis. The crisis  began when the Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority generously provided free power to all 78 of Puerto Rico’s municipalities. Since then, Puerto Rico has shrunk deeper and deeper into debt leading themselves into not only a financial crisis, but also an environmental crisis. Puerto Rico’s municipalities are left with zero incentive to conserve energy. One of the most startling examples is the ice skating rink in Aguadilla. One can’t help but wonder why a town  in the a tropics, would choose to open an ice skating rink given the associated energy costs. However, given free electricity , their largest expense is eliminated, and nothing is discouraging them from using as much electricity as they please.

Similarly, New York City’s environment is also at risk. Water especially. The New York City Department of Environmental Protection has been providing water at a fixed-rate to the city’s agencies for years. Thus, these institutions have zero motivation to become more environmentally-efficient. With no financial incentive, and no governing authority telling them otherwise, they are free to use as much water as they wish without considering any environmental risk. Prospect Park Lake, located in Brooklyn, assumes 55 acres and runs 7 feet deep. Park officials have not installed a well, which would be the environmentally responsible thing to do. Instead, they have filled the lake with tap water. Hundreds of city buildings within all five boroughs of New York City could save a substantial amount of water by installing high efficiency toilets and checking regularly for leaks. However, there is nothing motivating anyone to take any action to conserve New York City’s water.

New York City officials should look at Puerto Rico’s crisis and recognize the danger they are in. New York has a larger environmental footprint than Puerto Rico and is at a much greater risk. If no action is taken soon, NYC will find itself in terrible downward-spiraling crisis.

 

 

 


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Water and Sewer Service Line Protection Program: IMPORTANT UPDATE

In a post from August I gave you all the nitty gritty details on the DEP’s Water and Sewer Line insurance program – which protects homeowners in the case of a costly service line repair.

WELL, I have an important update: according to the DEP, MIXED USE buildings (that is commercial buildings with attached single or multi-family dwellings) are now also eligible for the program!!!

All eligible buildings must still be:

  • Metered with wireless meter reading device installed
  • Billed on flat-rate or metered charges
  • Current on DEP charges or payment agreement
  • Equipped with a single service line that is 2″ or less in diameter

The cost of the program is still the same for all eligible properties whether residential or mixed use – $4.49 per month for water line protection and $7.99 per month for sewer line protection.

SO, if you own a mixed use building and didn’t think you were eligible before, definitely look into enrolling in the program.  You can find all the information you need at http://www.nyc.gov/html/dep/html/service_line_protection/index.shtml and even more in my blog post from August.

 

 

 


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Tunnel No. 3: A Huge Success Waiting to Fail

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We finally have a reliable system of water distribution in New York City. But don’t forget what our “reliable” system itself relies on.

Water comes to New York City in two steps. Yesterday, the second step of our waters’ journey became much safer, more reliable, and more sustainable. The completion of Water Tunnel No. 3 was a huge success for New York. With the addition of Tunnel No. 3, the DEP can now inspect and repair Tunnel No. 1, reduce leakage, and assure that our city’s water tunnels will last long into the future.

But what about the FIRST STEP in the water journey??? Before the city’s water ever touches the now “reliable” three tunnel system, it must travel over 80 miles from the Catskill Mountains and Delaware River through the Catskill and Delaware Aqueducts. And unfortunately, this part of the journey isn’t reliable.

There are two known leaks in the Delaware Aqueduct that collectively release between 33 and 37 million gallons of water per day (out of the 500 million gallons of daily flow). These leaks not only waste a significant amount of valuable water (enough to provide water for 300,000 people per day), but also cause drinking water contamination and flooding in local homes.

The DEP has known of these leaks since the 1990’s, but very little has been done to repair them. Before anything can happen, inspections must be completed and an alternative bypass tunnel must be built so that water can continue being delivered to the city throughout the repair process.

In 2010 the DEP released a plan for a $1.2 billion, 3 mile bypass tunnel to be built around the leaks. Construction was set to begin in January of this year, but progress has been slow and it will take years before any real repairs can begin. The DEP continues to roll back the start date.

With the Delaware Aqueduct supplying 50-80% of NYC’s water, it is imperative that these repairs are carried out. Because what’s the point of a brand new city tunnel if we can’t get any water to it?


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DEP Service Line Protection Programs – Is it worth it??

IMG_1760It’s time to pay your water bill and there it  is again – that “sign up today” letter from the DEP.

“DEP is pleased to announce that we have partnered with American Water Resources (AWR) to offer a Water and Sewer Service Line Protection Program to our customers. This voluntary program is designed to protect New York City homeowners from the unexpected costs of service line repairs.”

The letter then goes on to explain that NYC homeowners are completely responsible for paying for any repairs to damaged water or sewer service lines that run from their homes to municipal services lines in the street.  The repairs are not covered by homeowner insurance policies – and they are expensive ($3,000 – $5,000 for water lines, and $10,000 – $15,000 for sewer lines.)  BUT the city is here to help.  For $4.78 a month you get protection for your water line and for $8.70 a month you get protection for you sewer line.

It sounds nice, only a small fee conveniently added to your already increasingly expensive monthly water bill.  You may not even notice it.  But really, it adds up.  In a year that tiny monthly fee will have cost you $162.  In fifteen years, it will have cost you almost $2,500 – and that’s not adding in probable rate increases. SO, is it worth it??

HERE’S WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW:

Who are you doing business with?

The Protection Plan is provided by American Water Resources (AWR).  The company has been around for a while, providing similar protection plans to homeowners in Long Island and other parts of New York State for over 10 years.

The good:

  • AWR was also hand selected by the New York City Water Board.  In 2012 the Board issued a Request for Proposals from qualified providers for service line protection programs.  “After a thorough review,” AWR was awarded a contract to administer the service line protection programs.
  • The company has an A+ rating with the Better Business Bureau.
  •  The level of service is outlined and guaranteed by the city, not the company.
  • Furthermore, the rates for the program are determined entirely by the City Water Board – not the company .  Since neither will be receiving any revenue from the program, there’s less of a chance of shady rate increases.

The bad:

  • There have been 20 official complaints filed with the BBB against the company in the past 12 months. The complaints include “problems with product/service,” “guarantee/warranty issues” and “billing/collection issues.”

Making sense of the exclusions:

Here are the exclusions that caught my attention:

  • Repairing anything not resulting from normal wear and usage.
  • Repairing anything caused by You or any third parties.
  • Repairing anything caused by natural acts or disasters, such as earthquakes, floods, hurricanes, landslides or sinkholes.

SO the program only covers line damage due to “normal wear and usage.”  This type of damage may be cause by tree roots, rust, erosion, etc.  This type of damage generally happens at the end of the life expectancy of your pipe line – about 40-70 years.

  • Restoring any gardens, shrubs, trees or structures
  • Restoring any sidewalks, curbs, driveways, roads or other paved surfaces that are not required by permit or New York City Department of Transportation rules and-

SO public roadways and sidewalks are covered under the program.  Private landscaping,  walkways and driveways are not covered, but will be backfilled and covered with an asphalt patch.

**ELIGIBILITY:  home must be residential, equipped with a wireless meter reading device, up-to-date in an existing payment agreement, and served by a meter pipe of less than 2″

Let’s talk money

Water line: So the cost for repair, if you shoot for a cheap one is going to be about $3,000.  If you pay  $4.78 a month, it will take about 52 years to have paid $3,000 to the plan.  SO, if your pipe needs repair within 52 years, you will be saving money.

Sewer line: So the cost for repair, if you shoot for a cheap one is going to be about $10,000.  If you pay  $8.70 a month, it will take about 95 years to have paid $10,000 to the plan.  SO, if your pipe needs repair within 95 years, you will be saving money.

Here’s the life expectancy of different types of water/sewer lines:

  • PVC pipe: 50-80 years.
  • Caste Iron pipe: 50-60 years
  • Copper pipe: 50-70 years
  • Plastic pipe: 50-75 years
  • Galvanized pipe: 40 years.

The final say

I’d say, DO IT.  Unless you know your pipe is relatively new, I believe this plan is worth the money and the peace of mind.  Pipes do not last forever and will at some point need to be replaced.  If you own a home in NYC, you have a lot invested in it – you want to protect it, even on into the future.   You’ve probably pictured what will happen to your house in the next 50 years.  Don’t let an expensive flood of sewage and water be a part of that picture.


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Proposed 2012 Water And Sewer Rates

The Water Board is proposing sweeping changes to New York City’s Water and Sewer Rates for fiscal 2012.  The following is a highlight of the changes to become effective

  • Multi Family Conservation (MCP) Rate will drop from $1,020.49 to $894.15 per apartment
  • A new MCP rate for “Low Consumption Commercial Unit” was created at $736.13 per store.
  • Meter rates for water and sewer will rise by 7 percent from $8.21 to $8.78 per hundred cubic feet (748 gallons).
  • Frontage Billing will cease to exist after June 31, 2012. All buildings on Frontage will be moved to MCP Rate. These buildings will have until June 31, 2015 to comply with MCP guidelines including but not limited to replacing all plumbing fixtures with Water Sense Plumbing fixtures.