Bill To Protect Water Supplies Receives Final Legislative Approval

Hugh T. Farley

June 17, 2008

The New York State Assembly today gave final legislative passage to legislation (S.902B) increasing penalties for contamination of public drinking water supplies.

The bill, which passed the State Senate earlier this year, is sponsored by Senator Hugh T. Farley (R,C - Schenectady) and by Assemblymember Brian Kavanagh (D - Manhattan). It was prompted by concerns over pollution of the Great Flats Aquifer in Schenectady County, which serves Schenectady, Glenville, Niskayuna, Rotterdam, and Scotia.

"It is hard to think of anything more important than clean drinking water," Senator Farley said, "but the laws protecting our water supplies are seriously out of date." He said that the current penalties for polluters of drinking water have remained unchanged since 1885.

If signed into law by the Governor, the legislation would subject polluters to civil fines of up to $200 per day for each violation, and would allow the courts to impose a $1,000 criminal penalty and a prison sentence of up to a year in jail. A court could also require convicted lawbreakers to pay reparations for damages. The previous penalty, a flat $200 fine, failed to deter polluters, who treated the penalty as a cost of doing business.

The legislation was supported by the New York State Association of County Health Officials, the League of Women Voters of Schenectady County, the Schenectady County Intermunicipal Watershed Board, the City of Schenectady, the Town of Glenville, the Town of Rotterdam, and the Schenectady County Legislature.