Update on Committee Investigations

From Assemblyman Jeff Klein
Chair, Committee on Oversight, Analysis and Investigation

Klein Law Helps Close the Gap in Emergency Planning

Chairman Klein releasing his report, Uncharted Waters, at his Albany Press Conference on February 9th, 2004

As recounted in Public Eye #1 (March 2003), the Oversight Committee has been engaged in a long term look at water supply security. Part of this effort resulted in the passage of Chapter 405 of the laws of 2002, which required water suppliers statewide to update their emergency planning to include an analysis of the threat of terrorism. These plans, to be reviewed and approved by the State Department of Health (DoH) were to have been submitted in January of 2003. After a year-long review of efforts to comply with this law, Assemblyman Jeff Klein released a report, Uncharted Waters, which detailed deficiencies in statewide water supply emergency planning at February 8th & 9th Press Conferences in New York City and Albany. The report, issued by Assembly Oversight, Health and Environmental Conservation Chairmen Klein, Gottfried and DiNapoli, found that :

    Klein said, “The best way to limit the effects of a potential emergency is to be prepared. All the parties involved must work together to ensure that the public is protected."
  • 54% of the state’s water suppliers had not completed their water supply emergency plan, a year past when plans were to have been submitted.
  • Water supply areas without full approval accounted for more than 50% of the state’s population.
  • Four out of six major cities in New York did not have final, approved plans.
  • Despite a 15 year-old statutory requirement, New York City had never submitted their plan to the State Department of Health, nor did it intend to do so.
  • The State Department of Health had not collected revenue information vital to administering the plans and had instead focused its attention on the federal standard.
  • Chapter 405 of the Laws of 2002 (Klein A.10155-a) caused many to act.
  • Local water suppliers and county Health Departments have been overwhelmingly responsive to the law.
  • State Health Department guidance which removes vulnerability analysis from local hands left local communities without critical information.

By press accounts, The State Department of Health responded to Uncharted Waters by countering claims that the majority of plans were incomplete. They also suggested that most of the deficiencies were not security-related.

These claims came as a surprise to Chairman Klein. Klein said “My committee had requested in writing updated status information back in October of 2003, but despite repeated attempts to get a response, had received no answers. Honestly, it was a little surprising that the Department shared this information with the press but not the Legislature.”

The Department’s public comments led the Committees to request yet again information regarding the current status of plan approval, along with information raised by their public comments.

After a four month wait, and the release of Uncharted Waters, the State Department of Health submitted some of the requested updated information. There has been some progress. Approvals for water suppliers increased by 7.8% (28 systems). Plans for two of the four cities identified in the Committees’ report which did not have full approval, finally received DoH approval. It also showed, however, that there were still 163 systems with less than final approval. The response also showed that in some cases the corrective actions were stalled. Eighty-six (24% of 356 plans) of the plans were overdue in resubmitting corrected plans.

Chairmen Klein, Gottfried and DiNapoli have reviewed the Department’s most recent response. As the report recommended, the Committees plan to meet with Department officials to consider possible legislation. They will also use this opportunity to discuss with Health Department officials their most recent data, to ensure that the overdue plans are completed and approved as soon as possible.

PUBLIC EYE #7 (March 2004) is the seventh in a series of updates from Chairman Jeff Klein detailing his work as Chair of the NYS Assembly Oversight, Analysis and Investigation Committee. Other issues will follow. The Committee is charged with reviewing implementation and adequacy of laws and programs to ensure compliance by the public and government agencies. Through its monitoring and investigative activities, it seeks to determine whether programs are operating as required and whether funds allocated for programs are spent effectively, efficiently and in accordance with legislative intent.

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