Westchester Joint Water Works Seeks Filtration Plant Bid by Late 2024

By JOHN JORDAN – June 2024

MAMARONECK, NY—The Westchester Joint Water Works has recently entered into a consent decree with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the New York State Department of Health that will allow it to proceed with the construction of an estimated $138-million Rye Lake water filtration plant.

The WJWW Water System supplies drinking water for its approximately 60,000 drinking water customers in the Town/Village of Harrison, the Village of Mamaroneck, and the Town of Mamaroneck, as well as portions of the City of Rye and the City of New Rochelle. It also indirectly supplies drinking water to an additional approximately 60,000 residents of the Village of Larchmont, the City of Rye, the Village of Rye Brook, and the Village of Port Chester.

The consent decree, which still must secure court approval, will require WJWW to pay $1.25 million in civil penalties to the U.S. EPA ($600,000) and to New York State ($650,000).

The Westchester County Board of Legislators approved a land swap last month to allow WJWW to acquire the land on which to construct the filtration plant.

In addition, the agreement calls for WJWW to spend $6.8 million on two water quality projects. Specifically, the consent decree calls for $1.1 million to be spent on a new water line in the Quarry Heights neighborhood of North Castle, NY and another $5.7 million on a lead pipe replacement program.

The agreement also spells out a timeline for the eventual development of a new $138-million filtration plant on property adjacent to Westchester County Airport—its Rye Lake water source. The new plant will ensure safe drinking water by treating disinfection byproducts that have been found in WJWW’s water distribution system. The consent decree states WJWW shall complete the acquisition of the site selected for construction of the filtration plant by April 20, 2025, and shall submit proof of the acquisition to the EPA and the state within 30 days of such acquisition. By May 1, 2025, WJWW shall advertise for bids for construction of the filtration plant. By Sept. 2, 2025, WJWW shall award the contract to construct the filtration plant.

Paul Kutzy, Manager of WJWW, in a prepared statement, said, “This is an important development in the process to construct the water filtration plant and we’re pleased to be moving forward with our efforts to protect the safety of our drinking water and the health of our residents.”

He continued, “The proposed consent decree provides for an enforceable schedule to construct the filtration plant, the payment of civil penalties to the federal and state governments, and the funding of three environmental benefit projects (a lead service line replacement program, a new water main to the Quarry Heights community, and improvements to a local stormwater management facility). The proposed consent decree, if approved by the federal court, would settle the claims of both the federal and state governments for civil penalties arising from the delay in the construction of the filtration plant and the related violations of the Safe Drinking Water Act and resolve all litigation and potential fines pertaining to those claims.”

The Westchester County Board of Legislators on April 8, 2024 approved a land swap to allow WJWW to acquire the land on which to construct the filtration plant.

Mr. Kutzy stated that the construction work for the project will be put out to bid as early as late 2024 depending on timing of required local and state approvals.

New York State announced in December 2023 that it will commit $30 million in funding to the Westchester Joint Water Works for the construction of the Rye Lake Water Filtration Plant.

WJWW has been under the gun, facing potential fines in excess of $100 million in connection with harmful chemicals found by regulators in the Rye Lake water supply system.

The construction of a filtration plant project to address the issues has been delayed due to litigation. WJWW sought to build a Water Filtration Plant when the need for one was identified in the early 1990s. In 2004 when the goal could not be accomplished to the satisfaction of New York State, WJWW was ordered by the court to construct a plant. Following the issuance of the court’s order, WJWW eventually decided the construction of a water filtration plant was the best option and purchased approximately 13.4 acres of land in the Town of Harrison on which to build. It also took steps to comply with disinfection treatment requirements, including the use of new and modified water tanks. WJWW completed the water filtration project design in a timely manner and received approvals from the New York State Department of Health. Shovels hit the ground in 2006, but litigation and permitting issues blocked the project, for which the Town/Village of Harrison Planning Board was the Lead Agency.

The consent decree, if approved by the court, would finally put to rest the long-standing environmental issues surrounding WJWW’s Rye Lake water system.

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