The Department of Environmental Protection will not permit entry to the perimeter of the Jerome Park reservoir until 2013 at the earliest. Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr. is encouraging Bronxites to fight for their right to access.
On Friday, May 20, Diaz announced that he is sponsoring a public hearing to discuss what he feels is the public’s right to increased access to the Jerome Park Reservoir.The hearing will be held on Thursday, June 2 at Vladeck Hall on Van Cortlandt Park South and Hillman Avenue.
In March, the DEP released a Jerome Park Reservoir “Final Access Report” that said the perimeter of the reservoir will remain fenced off, as it has been for several decades, until the Croton Water Filtration Plant reaches its expected completion in 2013.
The document says that once the project is finished there will be a three-day access trial. The DEP cited “risks to the security of the water supply system,” as a major reason for limiting access.
Diaz did not dismiss water safety issues, but he said he saw no reason protection could not be compatible with public access.
“While we recognize security concerns, the DEP’s offer of a three-day pilot program is totally unacceptable,” Diaz said at a press conference to announce the hearing. “We can certainly find a way where we can have a secure reservoir and public access.”
Citizens groups such as the Jerome Park Conservancy envision a walking/jogging path around the perimeter of the reservoir, similar to whathas existed in Central Park for decades.
Once the Croton Filtration Plant is complete, a large portion of the city’s water supply will run through the Jerome Park Reservoir.
As Councilman Oliver Koppell pointed out at the press conference, the current system is not much of a deterrent for anyone who might want to contaminate the water, access or not.
“The current fences are completely permeable,” Koppell said.
The DEP will have a representative at the hearing on June 2. So far, the agency’s stance on access versus safety has not changed.
“The Jerome Park Reservoir is a critical part of the city’s drinking water supply. Thought it is currently under construction, it will provide up to 30% of the city’s daily drinking water and DEP must take every reasonable precaution to protect the reservoir and the critical infrastructure needed to operate it,” DEP spokeswoman Mercedes Padilla said in a statement. “Once the project is complete in 2013, DEP will conduct a pilot program with limited access for the community and we will evaluate the results to determine future public access on the site.”