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Fixing the Leaks in the Delaware Aqueduct

Riverkeeper helps communities take action

Since 2001, Riverkeeper has been the primary watchdog over the leaks in the Delaware Aqueduct, which supplies more than half of New York City’s daily drinking water. Over the past two years, we’ve taken an active role within local communities to help those affected by the leaks to take action.

This past November, the New York City Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) announced its plans to divert water from the leaking aqueduct. Specifically, the City’s plan, designed to bypass the worst of two leaks, is to build a three-mile bypass tunnel around a portion of the aqueduct that is leaking in Roseton in Orange County, and repair other leaks in Wawarsing, in Ulster County, from the inside of the existing tunnel. The construction of the bypass tunnel and the repair of the lining will ensure that DEP can continue to deliver high quality drinking water every day for decades to come.

Under the plan, DEP will break ground on the bypass tunnel in 2013, and complete the connection to the Delaware Aqueduct in 2019. The leaking portion of the aqueduct would then be sealed and its use discontinued.
During the construction of the bypass tunnel, the Delaware Aqueduct will be shut down, enabling DEP to enter upstream portions of the tunnel and fix cracking at three segments totaling nearly 500 feet in Wawarsing by injecting grouting from the inside of the tunnel near the affected areas. Before the repair is performed, DEP will build or upgrade several key pieces of crucial infrastructure that will help maintain the city’s water supply capacity during the construction of the bypass tunnel.

Although the DEP’s plan represents a big investment in solving a big problem, the City should also move to compensate homeowners affected by the leaks for damages suffered. There have been serious consequences to people living in areas near the leak. In Roseton, the leaking aqueduct has created sinkholes on private lots and adjacent to the Danskammer power plant. In Wawarsing the aqueduct leak has caused the flooding of homes and contaminated local drinking water wells from flooded septic fields. The problem is so bad that DEP agreed to provide bottled water to residents, gave them sump pumps for their basements, and installed ultra-violet disinfection systems for their well water.

The residents of Wawarsing, together with DEP and other state and local officials, have formed the local Project Advisory Committee (PAC) to update community members on DEP’s leak investigation and to provide a forum to discuss ongoing issues with the leaks. Riverkeeper is a member of the PAC and attends monthly meetings. We will continue to monitor and report on this issue and work with residents in affected communities to ensure their voices are heard and until the consequences they are suffering are made right.

Read Preparing to Repair, Riverkeeper’s most recent report on the Delaware Aqueduct leak.

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