WHITE PLAINS, N.Y. - The federal government has filed a civil lawsuit against Westchester charging the county with violating the federal Safe Drinking Water Act.
“The federal Safe Drinking Water Act is designed to protect public health by requiring suppliers of water to take steps to prevent water-borne diseases from being transmitted to the public," Manhattan U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara said in a statement. "Westchester’s prolonged failure to comply with treatment rules designed to prevent cryptosporidiosis is unacceptable.”
The lawsuit charges that since April 2012, Westchester, through its Water District No. 1, has failed to comply with an SDWA rule that requires municipal drinking water suppliers to treat all unfiltered surface water for Cryptosporidium, a microscopic parasite.
Cryptosporidium can cause cryptosporidiosis, a potentially fatal gastrointestinal illness with symptoms that include diarrhea, nausea and abdominal cramps. There is no known treatment for cryptosporidiosis, and symptoms may persist for two weeks or longer in otherwise healthy adults and can be life-threatening for more vulnerable individuals, according to the US Attorney.
“Westchester County has an obligation to protect the public and come into compliance with the Safe Drinking Water Act," said EPA Regional Administrator Judith Enck in a statement. "In 2013, it is hard to believe there is resistance to taking action to prevent water-borne diseases.”
Westchester’s Water District No. 1 supplies water to residents of municipalities including Scarsdale, White Plains, and Yonkers. According to the lawsuit, Westchester has failed to treat a significant portion of the water supplied to customers by Water District No. 1 for Cryptosporidium, especially in the northern part of this water district.
The complaint seeks an order compelling Westchester to comply with the mandatory treatment requirements and ensure the delivery of properly treated drinking water to all households served by District No. 1. The complaint also seeks civil penalties.
This case is being handled by the Office’s Environmental Protection Unit.