Another Year, Another Setback for the Croton Water Filtration Plant

A FAMILIAR SONG for the Croton Water Filtration Plant—delays! Now it will be until April when testing on the site will begin.
A FAMILIAR SONG for the Croton Water Filtration Plant—delays! Now it will be until April when testing on the site
will begin.

by Hayley Camacho

Although start-up and testing recently began in one part of the Croton Water Filtration Plant, it will not be until next April when the rest of the plant begins testing as well, with a solid operational date nowhere in sight.

The news has outraged Bronxites who looked forward to the re-opening of the fenced-off jogging path hugging Jerome Park Reservoir, where part of the plant exists. This also comes amid concerns the plant buried underneath the Mosholu Golf Course is marred with shoddy work relating to the plant’s fire alarm system, according to information received by the Croton Filtration Monitoring Committee (CFMC).

Members met last month, pressing officials with the city Department of Environmental Protection over the lack of a working fire alarm system for the massive project. The DEP has long overseen the project, with construction manager Bernard Daly at the helm for years. He told an audience that work on the “fire alarm system is ongoing” but has not been completed because the plant is still under construction.

Testing of water from the recently filled Jerome Park Reservoir’s north basin began on Dec. 9, Daly reported.  The reservoir had been empty since construction on the filtration plant began in 2008. Once the plant is operational, about 30 percent of the city’s water supply will be filtered by the plant.

Delays and Fire Safety Questions
The federal Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is in talks with city DEP to determine a new completion date for the project, but would not confirm if a supplement to the court-issued consent decree is being negotiated. The current consent decree has a completion date of October 2011.

“The format of that has not been finalized as of yet,” said Doug McKenna, chief of the water compliance branch for EPA Region 2. “It’s not limited to the fire suppression. There were other delays. We know they’re working through it.”

There is no temporary fire alarm for workers at the plant. Fire safety is managed through an emergency evacuation plan that involves several measures such as fire watching patrols.

In most cases, a worker holds a fire extinguisher next to any hot work being performed, said Daly at the meeting. A spokesman for the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) said the agency monitors private contractor projects, not public ones such as the Croton

Water Filtration Plant. Crews have spent nearly 10 years building the plant deep underneath the Mosholu Golf Course in Van Cortlandt Park.

The project is nearly $2 billion over budget and nearly two years behind schedule. The EPA has fined the city $5 million for delays on the project for the past several years.

Sketchy Safety Track Record
But this is not the first time the plant’s been accused of safety hazards. Nearly a year ago, the Manhattan District Attorney’s office reached a $10 million settlement with Siemens Electrical for violating city contracts that required the company to hire minority or women-owned construction

firms. Siemens was also found guilty of submitting false documents that it employed a licensed master electrician at the site.

After the DA’s office announced the settlement, CFMC chair Robert Fanuzzi wrote to DEP Commissioner Carter Strickland seeking assurances that safety conditions at the plant had not been compromised by the defective workmanship uncovered by DEP’s on-site integrity monitor.

In May, Strickland wrote to the CFMC saying that “at no time was the health and safety of the workers or public at risk at the plant.”  Strickland noted that despite Siemens’ false representation of a master electrician, the quality of the electrical work was not impacted.

He wrote that the construction manager’s oversight of electrical work uncovered that a type of connector in use wasn’t approved for use on the project.  Siemens was directed to remove and replace the faulty connectors with approved materials at no cost to the city.

To date, Strickland said this replacement was the only work performed by the company that the DEP found to be deficient.  However, additional allegations of code violations have surfaced since Strickland’s response and brought before the latest meeting, including a letter drafted by Robert Solomon, a former Siemens construction manager alleging dangerous conditions at the plant.

Daly assured members that the safety issues were remedied after Siemens report thousands of feet of non-conduit and wire. “We find problems every day but they’re fixed,” Daly said. “That’s why we’re there.”

Daly told the committee that Solomon left the project in 2007 and had visited once since then. He added that he and his staff had “reviewed technical parts of the letter and they are all wrong.”

Bronx Talk TV host Gary Axelbank and long-time Croton watchdog wants an independent review. “There is no way to verify anything that Daly claims and what the letter claims,” he said. “We should have an independent body. That should be who inspects it rather than just say ok.”

Fanuzzi is again looking for clarification. “Within the last two years there have been shifting deadlines,” he said. “A letter explaining about the progress of these consent decrees for these extensions, reasons for the delays and expectations for completion would really satisfy the committee.”


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3 thoughts on “Another Year, Another Setback for the Croton Water Filtration Plant

  1. Jim Buckley

    The Norwood News has just published another troubling article about the cost and time overruns at the filtration plant. Another Year, Another Setback for the Croton Water Filtration Plant is an unwelcome reminder about the link between the affordability crisis in the Bronx and rising operating costs – especially the cost of water.

    While people are trying to figure out how to deal with affordability issues in New York City, the cost of water has been a major factor in rising operating costs. The first UNHP affordable housing renovation project was underwritten with estimated water costs of $85 per apartment per year. Currently, the capped water rate for apartment buildings that qualify for the Multifamily Conservation Program is $977 per apartment per year.

    The cost of water is impacted by construction cost overruns and delays in water construction projects like the Croton Water Filtration Plant. The article says the project is $2 billion over budget and the conditions mentioned in the article strongly suggest that this number will rise.

    Since all water costs must be absorbed by ratepayers, the cost of water is affecting property owners and renters alike—owners paying the higher rates directly, renters via higher lease increases approved by the Rent Guidelines Board. The next rate increase will be determined by the Water Board (the members of which are appointed by the Mayor) in the spring and will go into effect on July 1, 2014.

    Thank you to The Norwood News for following the filtration plant story since its beginnings; tracking local and widespread opposition, contractor fraud, budget overruns and political regret. UNHP has also been active since 1988 in our fight to reform water and sewer rates due to their impact on housing affordability. In addition to our work to fight ever increasing water and sewer rate increases, UNHP provides assistance to homeowners who are at risk of losing their homes due to unpaid water bills. Homeowners can contact UNHP at (718) 933-2539 to schedule an appointment with a foreclosure prevention counselor. If you are interested in learning more about how to fight rising water and sewer costs contact us at

    James Buckley
    Executive Director
    University Neighborhood Housing Program (UNHP)

    1. admin

      It’s an unfortunate story that keeps on giving. But we will continue monitoring the story–David Cruz, Editor-in-Chief of the Norwood News

  2. mike

    The croton filtration project reaks of corruption by our politicians and unions.
    The water supply now sucks, the water is like slim and its loaded with drug residue. We go through soap like crazy and its impossible to rinse the soap off. Its becoming a joke of lies and evil agenda of our politicians and their lobbyist. Im fed up, the public must take action now or this b$%#*&! will last for another 4 years.

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