Esopus Creek is now clean, DEP says

Eager to put that whole "Willy Wonka's chocolate river" thing behind it, the New York City Department of Environmental Protection issued a press release today stating that the Esopus Creek is running clear again.

The DEP's practice of releasing turbid water into the Esopus from the Ashokan Reservoir to clean NYC's water supply came under intense fire this winter from Ulster County officials and residents -- so much so that the DEP stopped the releases early and began flushing the creek with clean water, as we reported last week.

Today, the DEP stresses that everything seems to be back to normal:

As anyone who has passed by the creek can tell, it is now running clear, indicating that turbidity has fallen to levels you would expect to find in any open waterway. Overall, turbidity and suspended solids dropped dramatically, from a range of 33 – 50 nephelolometric turbidity units (NTU) to a range of 5 – 11 NTU and a range of 11 – 16 milligrams per liter (mg/L) of suspended solids to 2 – 7 mg/L. The other parameters, pH and conductivity, were well within normal ranges before and after the recent clear water release and showed no significant changes. These results demonstrate that the release of 1.5 billion gallons of clear water had the desired effect of flushing out the remaining turbidity, an outcome that will immediately benefit the entire lower Esopus ecosystem and the residents of nearby communities.

To bolster its claims, the DEP supplied a chart of its river sample findings (below), a photo of clean-running Ashokan Waste Channel (above), and a photo of the Esopus running by Marbletown Recreation Park.Source: NYC DEPSource: NYC DEP

The DEP's assurances might well fall on deaf ears in Ulster County, however. Yesterday, the Daily Freeman ran two stories about local demand that the DEP be punished, perhaps financially, for muddying the Esopus in the first place. In one story, Ulster County Executive Mike Hein called for an independent study of the damage caused by the releases. In the other, the Freeman quotes a letter penned by State Senator John Bonacic, in which he demands that the city consider paying damages:

“If a private property owner did what the DEP has done by this point, a Supreme Court judge would have been brought in, not to mention the imposition of a huge fine and possible criminal penalties levied against the property owner,” he said.

More: Our continuing coverage of the fight over the muddy Esopus.