By Maria Rocha-Buschel
The Department of Environmental Protection has stopped distributing water from the Croton watershed after an increase of complaints from residents about the quality of their tap water.
A spokesperson confirmed on Tuesday that the department decreased the percentage of Croton water going into distribution in response to the reports from residents about an “earthy” taste or smell to the water, and said that complaints to 311 have dropped since this change.
StuyTown Property Services sent out an email last Thursday with updates about the initial changes from the department, which were due to the DEP shutting down the Catskill Aqueduct for 10 weeks for an infrastructure project to upgrade the aqueduct.
The DEP noted that the Catskill Aqueduct is 113 years old and the ten-week renovation will cost $156 million. Gothamist reported last week that this Catskill Aqueduct shutdown will be the first of three before the Delaware Aqueduct is closed in 2022 for several months of repairs.
According to the DEP, water from both Croton and the Catskill/Delaware supply remains safe to drink but the distinct smells and flavors of water from the two sources are due to the differences in geology of the areas. Water from the Croton watershed is considered “moderately hard,” which means that it contains more naturally-occurring minerals than water from the Catskill/Delaware supply, which is considered “soft” or “slightly hard.” Officials also told Gothamist that recent changes in the taste was the result of run-off from heavy rain.
Stuyvesant Town and Peter Cooper Village residents have been posting on social media about the changes in their water’s smell and taste, and on the ST-PCV Tenants Association Facebook page, some described the odor and taste of the water as moldy.
“In the last week, I have been contacted by dozens of residents who reported changes to water that included odor, taste, and consistency,” Councilmember Keith Powers said. “Those changes caused obvious concern for those who have experienced them. We have been in regular contact with the Department of Environmental Protection to ensure that the water is safe and regularly tested. However, I still believe it would be best to conduct additional testing to the water to relieve any outstanding concerns.”
Tap water for New York City is collected in large upstate reservoirs, with some located to the west of the Hudson River (Catskill and Delaware watersheds) and some located to the east of the Hudson (Croton watershed), and while New York City usually gets the majority of its tap water from the Catskill Aqueduct, the DEP said that the agency switched distribution for some areas of Manhattan and the Bronx to the Croton watershed since the beginning of October for the renovations to the Catskill Aqueduct.
“Operational decisions about the city’s water supply, including the mix of water from the Delaware, Catskill and Croton systems, are made on an hour-to-hour, day-to-day basis,” a spokesperson for the DEP said. “Factors include available storage in the reservoirs, weather predictions, time of year, interstate agreements with Delaware, Pennsylvania, New Jersey and New York, quality of water in the reservoirs, demand from the five boroughs and the one million upstate customers who use New York City water and infrastructure repairs.”