EnvironmentThe Examiner

Mt. Pleasant Residents Voice Displeasure Over DEP Tunnel Project

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Mount Pleasant residents near the New York City Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) property raised concerns last week regarding the first phase of tunnel construction to bring water from the Kensico Reservoir to a treatment facility.

The town’s Planning Board held a Mar. 18 public hearing that focused on work that could start before the end of this year for the Kensico-Eastview Connection Project. Dan Michaud, chief of the DEP’s upstate water supply capital design program, said there is only one aqueduct, the Delaware aqueduct, that is currently available to send water from the reservoir to the Catskill Delaware Ultraviolet Light Disinfection Facility (CDUV). The CDUV was built in 2018 to comply with stricter water treatment regulations imposed by the federal government.

Michaud said the Catskill aqueduct has insufficient pressure to bring the water to the CDUV, necessitating the need for the second tunnel. The DEP is operating with only one tunnel, which could present problems for the 8.8 million water customers in New York City and Westchester if it needed to be taken offline.

“The tunnel is an important project for the Bureau (of Water), for the DEP, for New York City and for the towns that use the water,” Michaud said.

Mount Pleasant is one of the Westchester municipalities that derives water from the Kensico Reservoir for its public supply.

The first phase of the work would take place at the Kensico campus closest the reservoir and see the construction of a shaft. It would also include establishing a staging area for the project, relocation of Westlake Drive to the northern side of the DEP’s property and construction of a 30-space parking lot near Valhalla High School to replace public parking that would be lost near the site.

Other elements of the first phase would see construction of a new water supply enclosure on Lakeview Avenue and a new electrical building with exterior lighting on the property along with the inclusion of stormwater management measures, Michaud said.

The tunnel, 27 feet in diameter, would be buried about 300 feet underground. It would be large enough to accommodate decades worth of potential development growth, he said. It is more than 400 feet long to connect the Kensico campus with the CDUV. Work would take place on weekdays from 7 a.m. to 3:30 p.m.

An agreement has already been signed with a contractor for the first phase and be completed by the end of 2026, Michaud said.

There will be two other phases that will follow, including construction of the tunnel and work on the Eastview side. There will be separate hearings on each of the two remaining phases. The entire project could take 10 years to complete.

Last week, more than a dozen residents posed questions, several of whom criticized the town and the DEP for failing to better publicize such an important project.

Lakeview Avenue resident Peter Lenz, a geographer and data scientist whose father once worked for the DEP and who lives near the site, said he often stays up to date on DEP projects but there was no warning about such an extensive undertaking.

“I had no idea this was happening until the last few days,” Lenz said. “As someone who’s very plugged in, the fact that I did not know this, suggests that there’s been a very poor effort of communicating with the public.”

He suggested the board and the DEP consider revising the Final Environmental Impact Statement (FEIS), if necessary, due to the sparse public input during the scoping session.

“It has been written but it can be rewritten, and I want to remind you guys of that,” Lenz added.

Others expressed worries about traffic, congestion and noise caused by the construction and the activity at the site. Resident Dennis Spinelli doesn’t see how the work won’t interfere with school traffic, particularly without a signal at Westlake Drive and Columbus Avenue.

“You’re going to create a tremendous problem for the people going to the school in the morning,” he said. “The traffic backs up to Westlake Drive now, and you’re not going to have a traffic light to help people out.”

The Planning Board adjourned the public hearing with a tentative resumption date of Apr. 4. Representatives from DEP hope to answer the questions that were posed last week for that next meeting.





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