Water Watch NYC

Everything you need to know about water in NYC.


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A Closer Look at the Resignation of Jim Tripp

Any New Yorker who has ever gotten a traffic ticket while Mike Bloomberg has been in office likely knows about Bloomberg’s brilliant ideas to increase the city’s income without raising taxes.

For many years, one of the city’s greatest sources of income has been their lease agreement with the Water Board. The Water Board pays the city exorbitant amounts for their use of the reservoirs and tunnels. The amount paid depends not on the value of these systems but is a percentage of the DEP’s spending. The more the DEP spends on things like upkeep and expansion, the more revenue the city gets. The worst part is that the city doesn’t even have to use this money for water related issues. They can use it for anything from education to street paving.

The city has a similarly absurd agreement with the DEP regarding sanitation. Since dirty streets contaminate clean water when it rains, the city charges the DEP for street cleaning.

These are two of the biggest issues currently facing the DEP and the Water Board. Former Water Board Chair Jim Tripp fought hard against this type of backdoor financing and in July, 2008 considered resigning over the lease agreement. Was the city’s intransigence on this issue the straw that broke the camel’s back?

New York City will miss Jim Tripp’s perseverance.  Will the new Water Board Chair, Alan Moss, fight for what’s best for the residents of New York, or is he in the pocket of the city officials that got him appointed to the Water Board in the first place?


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City Council Holds Hearing on Backflow Containment

(l-r) Me with Stewart O'Brien of the Plumbing Foundation and Thomas Maniuszko of the NYS PHCC

(l-r) Hershel with Stewart O'Brien of the Plumbing Foundation and Thomas Maniuszko of the NYS PHCC

Councilman James Gennaro called a public hearing of the City Council yesterday to discuss the DEP’s failure to live up to New York State’s imposed requirements for backflow containment devices.

In 1981, the state required the DEP to determine which buildings needed the devices and to institute a program to have commercial building owners install these safety devices. In 1999, the DEP reported that there may be more than 100,000 buildings that require backflow prevention.

DEP Commissioner Emily Lloyd testified at the hearing that there are about 13,000 buildings that still need to be inspected before the DEP even begins dealing with the issue of enforcing backflow installation.

I testified along with the Plumbing Foundation and the New York State Association of Plumbing, Heating & Cooling Contractors about the importance of this issue and the DEP’s lack of action. We at WaterWatchNYC commend Councilman Gennaro for his commitment to this issue. We are proud to be involved in the effort and we wish Councilman Gennaro a lot of luck in his future efforts to ensure the safety of the public.


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Rates Going Up

As most of you probably already know, the Water Board approved the requested 14.5% water/sewer rate increase at their meeting last week.

On the bright side though, Water Board Chairman Jim Tripp mentioned that the mayor’s office claims to be looking into the possibility of lowering the DEP’s rental agreement. If this actually happens, the DEP would be paying the city a more reasonable price for the use of the city’s reservoirs and the city would minimize, or even eliminate, its unfair back door financing. This would also allow the DEP to lower its operating cost and hopefully, its rates as well.

WaterWatchNYC hopes the city goes through with this plan but frankly, we’re not holding our breath.


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DEP Asks Water Board for 14.5% Water/Sewer Rate Increase

NYC Water Board Chairperson, Jim TrippThe NYC Water Board met on Friday morning to discuss the rate increase for fiscal year 2009, to go into effect July 1, 2008. It seems as though rate increases are the only things they talk about these days. If you think the water and sewer rates are high now, just wait until July.

Consider this: The current DEP water/sewer rate is $5.23 per hundred cubic feet (hcf). The DEP hopes to raise the rate to $5.99 per hcf. That’s an astronomical 14.5% increase. Click here for a pdf graph of historical water and sewer rates to see how this one compares.

It makes me wonder. What happened to the DEP’s claim last year that an 11.5% increase over the next few years would be sufficient? What happened to the DEP’s claims that all they needed to recover their costs and avoid rate hikes was the ability to sell liens and terminate service?

Here’s the real problem. The DEP’s budget has doubled in the last few years and they’re spending all their money on capital improvement the interest of which will only haunt us in the future. They claim that they need to raise their rates because of their rising costs, but instead of examining those costs, the Water Board chooses to discuss only small consulting contacts that the DEP has subverted from their own contract process to the Water Board in order to avoid competitive bidding. The public’s lack of interest and participation only emboldens the DEP to constantly raise rates.

So what can a consumer do? Before the Water Board is allowed to approve this increase they must meet once with the public in each borough to hear their concerns. DO NOT PASS UP THIS OPPORTUNITY. The only thing that prevents the DEP from taking your money is a public outcry. The meetings will be held at the following times in the following locations. Show up and make yourself heard!

  • Bronx: Monday, May 5, 2008 at 6:00 pm. Manhattan College, De La Salle Hall, Room 209, 4513 Manhattan College Parkway, Bronx, NY 10471.
  • Queens: Tuesday, May 6, 2008 at 11:00 am. Dept. of Environmental Protection Training Room, 6th Floor, 59-17 Junction Boulevard, Flushing, NY 11373.
  • Staten Island: Tuesday, May 6, 2008 at 6:00 pm. College of Staten Island Center for the Arts, Recital Hall, 2800 Victory Boulevard, Staten Island, NY 10314.
  • Manhattan: Wednesday, May 7, 2008 at 5:30 pm. St. John’s University – Manhattan, Room 123, 101 Murray Street, New York, NY 10314.
  • Brooklyn: Thursday, May 8, 2008 at 6:00 pm. Brooklyn College Student Center, Alumni Lounge (opposite Whitehead Hall), East 27th Street and Campus Rd., Brooklyn, NY 11210.

For more information, see the new NYC Water Board website.