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NY DEP staff honored; Answering the call of duty upstate and down

Staff of the NYC Department of Environmental Protection Agency, who are tasked with keeping water flowing from the reservoirs such as the Pepacton Reservoir near Downsville, pictured above, were cited for the efforts locally and in New York City during Hurricane Sandy.
TRR photo by Fritz Mayer

By Fritz Mayer
December 19, 2012

DOWNSVILLE, NY — If you’re the mayor of a city of 8,000,000 people, one of the things that would likely concern you during an emergency is that your citizens have access to clean water, because it’s just not practical to deliver bottled water to that many residents.

That’s according to John Vickers, chief of western operations for the New York City Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) Bureau of Water Supply. Vickers was at the Downsville DEP facility at a recognition ceremony on December 14. He said with a degree of pride, “We were able to keep supplying tap water for drinking and fighting fires throughout the storm. It’s one of the things that Mayor Michael Bloomberg mentioned at almost every press briefing, ‘We have clean drinking water,’ which was not the case in about 10 of our neighboring communities, where they had intrusion of sewage and compromised systems.”

In recognition of the efforts of DEP staff required to achieve that end during Hurricane Sandy, Vickers handed out more than 50 certificates. Many staff members manned the reservoir facilities during the storm to clear trees and perform other tasks to keep the water flowing. Others were honored for going down to the city and taking part in the emergency clean-up there.

One group of volunteers, called Task Force Chipper because of all of the chipping of debris that was needed, was made up of DEP staff from upstate and also of volunteers from the Delaware County Department of Volunteers. They went down to the city to clear away some of the 15,000 trees that were downed within the city limits.

The citation said, “They accomplished in two and a half days what the NYC Department of Parks said would take seven days.” They were then moved to other areas.

Vickers added, “Even off duty, the task force members helped out. On the evening of November 9, while having dinner at a sushi bar, nine members of Task Force Chipper, including three from Delaware County, responded heroically to a fire in a restaurant, helping to save a busboy, who emerged from the kitchen in flames, and ushered patrons out of the restaurant.”

Officials are now trying to deal with all of the wood chips that were created by the cleanup. One pile at Floyd Bennett Field in Brooklyn is 400 yards long, 100 yards wide and 25 feet high.