Two recent leaks, including one that resulted in a worker needing to be hospitalized in 2007, inspired committee members and others to ask questions about security at the reservoir. Neither previous incident posed a threat outside the gatehouse, officials said.
"My concern is not about your employees, I'm sure they're trained and they know what to do," said Saul Scheinbach, Community Board 8's environment and sanitation committee chairman, during a meeting about the construction of the Croton water filtration plant. "My concern is, the thousands of students who may run out into the street where chlorine is collecting, and die. So what are they supposed to do and has anyone told them? Does the principal know, do the teachers know, do the students know? Do they have a drill in case, God forbid, the chlorine leaks across Goulden Avenue?"
The answer to his question, from a DEP official who oversees the use of chlorine at the gatehouse and from FDNY Division 7 Deputy Chief Kevin Scanlon, was about six seconds of silence. Then the Croton
Mr. Scheinbach spoke over him, saying, "There's no answer to that."
A leak in a room in one of the gatehouses last October prompted DEP officials to schedule meetings with school officials on the potential threat. A representative from the city Office of Emergency Management spoke to officials at Bronx Science in November, DEP Assistant Commissioner Mark Lanaghan said at last night's meeting.
The CFMC is a board of representatives from city agencies, elected officials and community boards given limited oversight over the design and construction of the Croton filtration plant and related nearby buildings, including the two gatehouses at Jerome Park Reservoir where chlorine is stored. A DEP official said at the meeting that chlorine has been stored at the two gatehouses, Gatehouse 5, where many thousands of pounds of chlorine is stored, and Gatehouse 7, where a smaller amount is stored, for 50 or 60 percent of the last 10 years. The chlorine is trucked away when the Croton water system, which often provides up to 10 percent of the city's water, is not in use.
Given an opportunity later in the evening to clarify his silence, Chief Scanlon said it would be part of his emergency response to notify officials at Lehman and at Bronx Science if FDNY detected a dangerous amount of chlorine in the immediate area of the gatehouse. At that point, the schools officials would be instructed how to proceed.
Chief Scanlon had previously outlined a detailed procedure for responding to an emergency at the gatehouse. Chlorine is relatively harmless once it reacts with water; Chief Scanlon's options in responding to a leak outside the gatehouse include using a water cannon to create a curtain of water around the facility that would dilute chlorine in the air. Personnel would also use monitors to check for the presence of chlorine in the air outside the gatehouse upon arriving, Chief Scanlon said.