As opposition for the Haverstraw water desalination plant grows, so does the strength of several community activist groups.
The Rockland Water Coalition and Rockland Sierra Club sponsored a public forum on Tuesday night at the Nanuet Library to present their concerns on the proposed Hudson River Water Treatment Plant.
The presentation, “Community Conversation on Rockland’s Drinking Water,” had a panel of five experts who have been following the progress of the desalination plant closely:
- Bob Dillon, RAFT—Rockland Residents Against Flooding Tomorrow
- Martyn Ryan, Rockland Sierra Club
- Laurie Seeman, Strawtown Studios
- Paul Gallay, Riverkeeper, Inc.
- Rita Louie, Deputy Mayor of the Village of Pomona
Earlier this month 27 environmental and civic groups signed a letter sent to Gov. Andrew Cuomo noting the hurricane damage sustained by the project’s pilot plant.
George Potanovic of the Rockland Water Coalition opened up the meeting with some background information.
“There is a process in place through the DEC called the state environmental quality review act,” said Potanovic. Adding that through this process that has taken place over the last few years, comments and questions from the coalition and public are submitted and United Water has to respond to those comments. “It culminated with a public hearing on March 6 last year.”
At that hearing, the public was allowed to testify with comments and after the hearing, written comments were accepted for about a month. The DEC has been reviewing public input since April. They haven’t reached their decision yet, said Potanovic.
“The USGS study that was commenced in 2005, … didn’t finished until 2010 and the results were not available until 2011. The decision by the (Public Service Commission) PSC to tell United Water to increase its water supply in 2006 was much earlier than the study that was done by Rockland County,” said Potanovic. “The report said that there wasn’t as a severe shortage as they originally thought. That it was peak demand that we need to be concerned about, that is summer-long water primarily. USGS doesn’t tell you what you need to do. They’re just giving you the science (and data). It’s up to Rockland County to decide what the right policy should be.”
Bob Dillon, RAFT—Rockland Residents Against Flooding Tomorrow, said that "when the Public Service Commission made their decision in 2006 that Rockland needed more water … they didn’t consider two things:"
- "They didn’t consider the results of the USGS survey’s ground water. … Rockland’s ground water is more resilient than they had feared. It recharges over the course of the year. It gets drawn down in the summer time and it recharges over the winter and spring."
- "They also didn’t consider the amount of excess releases to New Jersey. These excess releases … were occurring at the same time as the Public Commission was considering the request"
Between 2003 and 2006, during times of drought, during times when Lake DeForest was below 100 percent of capacity, an additional 6.62 million gallons a day was being flowed to New Jersey, said Dillion, adding that his research is from the USGS website. Dillon downloaded flow data from every single day from 1958 to 2010, put it on a spreadsheet and compared it to what was supposed to happen.
"This is the USGS’s information … and it has not been refuted by United Water."
Water: Rockland vs New Jersey
"There’s a bigger demand for water in New Jersey," said Potanovic. "Should we be building a desalination plant for our county so that we can drink Hudson River water and pay for it, while more of our fresh water from Lake DeForest goes down to New Jersey?”
Dillon explained Rockland’s relationship with New Jersey.
Lake DeForest was constructed in the 1950s. At that time, it was decided that Rockland had to maintain the natural flow of the river to New Jersey, said Dillon.
"When the decision was made … the commission ruled that this commission has the full power to see that this project operates solely for the benefit of Rockland County. The only benefit of the Hackensack Water Company, which is now Untied Water, and the people of New Jersey is the incidental benefit of irregulated flow in the river," he said. “When we have times of high demand, Lake DeForest will increase its production from an average of 10 million gallons a day up to 21 million gallons a day. If it’s a drought situation, … because we’re required to send a certain amount of water down to New Jersey and the production from the wells will increase."
He added that peak demand will go up to 55 million gallons a day while Lake DeForest has a peak capacity of 20 million gallons a day.
"The issue is that over time, they (United Water) has sent more water to New Jersey than they are allowed to. In times from 1958 to 2010, the average flow is about 10 million gallons a day. (Potanovic) mentioned that in 2007, (United Water) they were fined by the DEC for additional flow releases," said Dillon.
Increased United Water Bill
"When (New Jersey's) reservoir is below 50 percent and ours is above 50 percent capacity, we have to send them as much as 25 million gallons of water a day. If we have a desal plan that is going to be at our cost, that is going to be supplying water to Rockland residents and United Water is able to store the water in Lake DeForest because they don’t have to produce as much, then we will have the water available to send New Jersey when they are in need, not at their expense," said Dillon.
"United Water says that the cost of the plant will be about $189 million to construct," he continued. "What they’re not telling you is the annual revenue stream to support that. In 2010, they testified that it would cost the rates to go up $200-300 per customer. If you do the math on what kind of return is needed on a $189 million capitol investment, it comes out more to the neighborhood of $500 per year per customer. That’s for something, in my opinion, at this time is certainly something we don’t need.”
Check back with Patch later for more on this meeting
Some of the questions coalition members addressed are “If the desalination plant had been built earlier, sited on the Hudson River, would it have been rendered inoperable during Hurricane Sandy? Would future storms jeopardize Rockland’s water supply or leave residents with skyrocketing bills to pay for damage, on top of massive construction costs?”
There was also discussion on health concerns, water rate costs and potential impacts on the river habitat. The Coalition has proposed a range of sustainable and less expensive alternatives to desalination, including conservation and efficiency, a stepped up program of repair of leaks, and possible wastewater reuse.
Related Patch Posts:
- County Executive Candidate Proposes Campaign Rules
- Community Forum Planned On Desalination Plant Concerns
- Coalition Seeks Re-evaluation After Hurricane Damaged Desal Pilot Plant
- The Haverstraw Desalination Plant - More than Meets the Eye
- Desal Opponnents Point Out Decreasing Commercial Need and Poor Maintenance
- Water Coalition Wants Desal Plant Case Reopened
- Legislature Wants Issues Conference on Desalination Plant
- Sierra Club Endorses David Carlucci
- Legislative Environmental Committee Wants Public Heard On Desal Plant (UPDATE)
- Environmental Committee Talks Desalination Plant
- Legislators Want More Water Supply Information