THE BRONX - A panel has voted for an independent audit of the Croton Water Filtration Plant being built in Van Cortlandt Park due to spiraling budget costs.

The citizen panel overseeing the project made the decision Monday over objections from the Department of Environmental Protection and the New York City Department of Parks and Recreation.

In addition to the city's Independent Budget Office, the board wants the city and state comptroller to look into the finances. Those offices are reviewing the audit request.

The project's original $890 million tab has ballooned to nearly $3 billion. The DEP has said the rising costs are due to design alterations, rising building material costs and other factors.

Critics argue the inflated total is being passed on to consumers in the form of higher water rates and fees.

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