Stephen M. Tomasik
DEC – Division of Environmental Permits
625 Broadway, 4th Floor
Albany, NY 12233-1750
February 26, 2015
Application ID: 0-9999-00181/00009 – Water Quality Certification
Application ID: 0-9999-00181/00010 – Freshwater Wetlands
Application ID: 0-9999-00181/00011 – Water Withdrawal
Application ID: 0-9999-00181/00012 – Excavation and Fill in Navigable Waters
Application ID: 0-9999-00181/00013 – Stream Disturbance
Dear Mr. Tomasik,
The New York City Department of Environmental Protection (NYCDEP), in its scoping comments, noted the sensitivity of the NYC watershed, its importance to millions of water consumers in New York, and potential impacts on the watershed and ultimately the water supply resulting from stormwater discharges and polluted runoff that could occur during construction of the Constitution pipeline. (1)
The results of the following studies substantiate NYCDEP’s concerns, regarding negative impacts and consequences to all of the current waters and watersheds that Constitution Pipeline would traverse.
A 2013 Study by the United States Geological Survey (USGS) and NYCDEP was conducted to identify the sensitivity of forested ecosystems to forest disturbance (tree cutting), in the northeastern United States. The study area was in the headwaters of the Neversink Reservoir watershed, part of the New York City water supply system, in the Catskill Mountains of southeastern New York. Study monitoring was conducted from 4 years before the harvests until 4 years after the harvests.
The study concluded that forest clear-cutting resulted in a large release of nitrate (NO3-) from watershed soils and a concurrent release of inorganic monomeric aluminum (Alim) which is toxic to some aquatic biota. These releases caused “100-percent mortality of caged brook trout (Salvelinus fontinalis) during the first year after the clear-cut and adversely affected macro-invertebrate communities for 2 years after the harvest.”
The increased soil NO3- concentrations measured after the harvest could be completely accounted for by the decrease in nitrogen (N) uptake by watershed trees, rather than an increase in N mineralization and nitrification. (2)
The study also stated that deer browsing could affect water quality by suppressing forest regeneration and nutrient uptake. Of course in the case of a pipeline row, the forest will never be allowed to grow back. The use of pesticides and routine, maintenance cutting inevitably creates long-term loss of critical uptake of deleterious chemicals and compounds by trees.
Another study published in 2005 titled “Stream acidification and mortality of brook trout(Salvelinus fontinalis) in response to timber harvest in Catskill Mountain watersheds, New York, USA”, documented the exact same outcome as the USGS study noted above. There were sharp increases of acidity, NO3 and Alim as a result of clear-cutting. The results? 100 percent fish kill of brook trout in the study area. (3)
Additionally, several other studies corroborate that Intensive forest harvesting can alter the physical and chemical properties of stream-draining “forested catchments”–creating changes in stream water chemistry that can last for many years. These studies conclude that changes in stream chemistry such as increased Nitrate concentrations, acidification and increased Aluminum concentrations following tree cutting, are not only detrimental to sensitive fish species and other aquatic organisms but can degrade the quality of drinking water and contribute to eutrophication in receiving waters. (4)
The USGS defines eutrophication as “The process by which a body of water acquires a high concentration of nutrients, especially phosphates and nitrates. These typically promote excessive growth of algae. As the algae die and decompose, high levels of organ