June 14, 2013

Tapping in, a century later

It’s brown! It’s black! It’s alive! Those are some of the exclamations (we’ve left out the expletives) that Katonah and Bedford Hills residents who live in the Consolidated Water District have cried over the years. The district serves 7,000 people in Katonah, Bedford Hills and several small pockets on the east side of I-684 south of Route 35. They’ve collected water in bottles and brought it to town meetings; they’ve sent samples to labs and installed home filters, softeners and other contraptions in the quest for clean water. Since 1893, with the flooding of old Katonah and the creation of the Croton Reservoir, our towns have suffered the dubious distinction of serving as the “stewards” of New York City’s watersheds while being deprived of the merits of New York City’s clean aquifer.

Few had the temerity of New York City’s water commissioner John Daly, who came up to northern Westchester that year, supped at the Palmer House hotel on the banks of what was then known as the Croton Lake and, after dining, informed the owners they would have to close their establishment because they were polluting New York City’s water supply.

Because of runoff and the lack of a sewer system, Bedford’s water is now polluted by nitrates, chloride and manganese, largely from septic systems and fertilizer runoff. For more than a decade, the town has been struggling to solve recurring problems with its water supply, particularly nitrates and chloride in the water.

Filtration, talked about for decades, was sidelined by competing demands from both state and federal agencies like the New York City Department of Environmental Protection, the Environmental Protection Agency, the New York State and Westchester County departments of health, the Department of Environmental Conservation and even the New York State Department of Corrections. Millions of dollars have gone into environmental impact studies, legal briefs, conferences, seminars and town hall events. In 1997, the federal government sued the city — and won — for violating the Safe Drinking Water Act.

Jump forward 16 years:

“The town is excited to announce the filtration plant began treating New York City water and supplying it to our customers on June 6,” wrote supervisor Lee Roberts this week in an email blast. “Getting to this point was a huge undertaking, and we are pleased to begin operation of the new plant. The plant will replace our existing groundwater supplies and provide a long-term, high quality source for the Consolidated Water District.”

The long-term historical significance is worth celebrating. The $22 million facility on Route 35 includes the water processing building featuring a massive web of pipes, pumps, chemical feed equipment and monitoring stations; an administrative building with a master control room, offices and a locker room; and a maintenance garage. Seen from the road it is as charming as a John Jay barn, with attention to architecture and seamlessly blending into Bedford’s sense of place.

Using ultraviolet disinfection, chlorination and microfiltration, the filtration plant provides clean drinking water for town residents and is permanently connected with the DEP’s nearby Delaware water supply.

“We’ll be getting what we call raw water off the Delaware aqueduct, and that’s what we’ll be treating here, and then that water will be pumped into the town’s distribution system,” an engineer said prior to the plant’s opening.

The town’s plant will also be able to get water directly from the Cross River Reservoir, what officials call an “important redundancy,” in the case of an interruption in supply from the Delaware Aqueduct.

For about a year, the new plant will be used in conjunction with existing well supplies while officials test the plant and work to obtain regulatory approval. During this one-year period, officials say, the water will still have moderate-to-high levels of hardness due to the presence of calcium and magnesium. Residents with water softeners are advised to keep them until the town is fully switched over to the new supply.

Much remains to be seen. Will Bedford be able to create a viable wastewater system to complement the filtration system so we aren’t just adding more dirty water to clean? How will the town dispose of the waste from the filtration plant itself, which includes sediment, algae, bacteria, parasites and the potentially harmful giardia cyst and cryptosporidium, which must be disposed of properly? Will costs meet or stay within estimates, or will Consolidated Water District residents be burdened with unforeseen expenses? Will the full system changeover proceed as scheduled? Will the vows of limited development by the hamlets of Bedford Hills and Katonah be compromised with the availability of clean water sources?

As for the taste, that’s something you’ll have to decide for yourselves. For many of us, “clear” is the most beautiful color there is.

Read more local coverage of your hometown in this week’s issue of the The Record-Review. Newsstand copies are available at several locations listed above, or subscribe today for convenient home delivery.

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The official newspaper of the towns of Bedford and Pound Ridge, New York



Pound Ridge/Scotts Corners

  1. Scotts Corner Market – Trinity Corners Shopping Center;  55 Westchester Avenue

  2. Pound Ridge Sunoco — 66 Westchester Avenue    

  3. Sam Parker Country Market — 257 Westchester Avenue    

Bedford Village

  1. Bedford Rexall Pharmacy — Hunting Ridge Mall; 424 Old Post Road  

  2. Village Green Deli — Village Green; Routes 22 and 172    

  3. Bedford Shell — Routes 22 and 172 (at blinking light); 848 So. Bedford Road

  4. Village Service Center —193 Pound Ridge Road (at Long Ridge Road intersection)    

Bedford Hills

  1. Bedford Hills Deli – 7 Babbitt Road    

  2. Bueti’s Deli – 526 Bedford Road (Route 117)


  1. NoKA Joe’s – 25 Katonah Avenue    

  2. Steger’s Paper Mill – 89 Katonah Avenue    

  3. Katonah Pharmacy – Katonah Shopping Center; 294 Katonah Avenue   

  4. Bagel Shoppe – Katonah Shopping Center; 280 Katonah Avenue    

  5. Katonah Sunoco – 105 Bedford Road

Mount Kisco

  1. Teamo/Mt. Kisco News – 239 Main Street    

Cross River

  1. Bagel Boys Café – Cross River Shopping Center; Routes 121 and 35    

  2. Cross River Shell Station – Route 35    

  3. Cameron’s Deli –  890 Route 35    

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