At a press conference in front of the federal courthouse in White Plains Thursday, Noam Bramson, the Democratic challenger to Westchester County Executive Rob Astorino, criticized Astorino for blowing a deadline to bring ultraviolet water treatment to a handful of Westchester communities.
Bramson said Astorino knew from the day he took office of the April 2012 deadline to provide UV treatment in Westchester Water District 1 in White Plains, Scarsdale, Mount Vernon and Yonkers. Under the previous Democratic administration, Bramson said, the county worked intently to find a solution.
“Under this administration, that progress came to a halt,” said Bramson, the mayor of New Rochelle.
The county has been in violation for 500 days, he said, with potential fines of $37,500 a day. The Environmental Protection Agency filed a lawsuit against the county last week after county officials refused to enter into a consent decree to resolve the violations.
“As a result of Mr. Astorino’s failure to lead, Westchester taxpayers face the prospect of crushing fines,” Bramson said.
Now many families are worried about drinking water from the tap, he said.
But Astorino said the water is tested weekly and is safe.
“The standards have changed, the water has not,” he said. “The water is safe.”
The county is working diligently to come up with a solution taxpayers can afford, Astorino said.
After the EPA notified the county that it would take enforcement action, the county began working on a short-term fix to treat the water in the northern part of District 1 that does not now get UV treatment. Now the county is hoping that much cheaper option can be made permanent, avoiding the $100 million solution that has been in the works for years.
“This is a massive project so it takes a long time,” Astorino said, questioning why the EPA wouldn’t work with the county to fix the problem as quickly as possible.
In his remarks, Bramson argued the water issue is part of a pattern of exposing the county to fines, lawsuits and legal fees on issues including affordable housing and the county bus system. Charts behind him had the headline, “Westchester can’t afford Rob Astorino,” which turns around the tagline on Astorino’s latest commercial, “Westchester just can’t afford Noam Bramson.”