Desal Water Plant May Raise Water Bill $500 (VIDEO)

There was a panel of experts to talk facts to the crowd. There is strong opposition to the plant, which could cause United Water bills to increase $500 per customer per year, according to one panel expert


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.

USGS Study

“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

Z January 31, 2013 at 12:14 PM
So now water is going up? Are you kidding me? What next! Everything is going up but our salaries! When do we get a break?
Nicholas January 31, 2013 at 12:27 PM
The amount of disinformation spread at this meeting was alarming and pulling numbers out of thin air and presenting them as facts with the intent to scare the public is dishonest. To state that the USGS's survey was not available to 2011 is incorrect. Paul Heisig gave a lecture at Lamont Doherty in April 2010 on the report. http://www.ldeo.columbia.edu/video/rockland-countys-water-resources The problems with Rockland water have been documented for years with approval for a new reservoir dating back to 1979 and a report from 2006 cited water shortages in Rockland. http://www.ldeo.columbia.edu/news-events/water-shortages-northeast-linked-human-activity Rockland does face a future water problem and whether this can be solved by conservation, limiting development and/or increased supply should be thoroughly reviewed and I would urge all interested parties, including United Water to come together for the future of Rockland..
Mike Hirsch January 31, 2013 at 12:33 PM
There is absolutely no need for the desal plant. We have plenty of water now that United Water has been stopped from shipping it to NJ.
Dennis January 31, 2013 at 12:36 PM
Again, opponents continue to use fear tactics to derail the desal plant. As a former commercial fisherman I strongly urge UW to move forward to harness the Hudson as the vital resource it is.
Robert Guttman January 31, 2013 at 01:08 PM
I used to work on ships, where we always distilled our own fresh water out of salt water, so I know something about this issue. The water we made for ourselves was always purer than the water you could get from ashore. However, on shipboard we always made our fresh water out of SEAWATER, when we were out in the open sea, we NEVER made fresh water when we were in a harbor or on a river, because the water there was always too polluted to use.
what about conservation and those laws enforced??years ago when we had a drought a lot of houses in the expensive developments refused to NOT water their lawns!!!!yet no fines I am sure.as the gold ole boys protect each other ..across from the water company in west nyack many of those houses had their sprinklers on!!!S how ABOUT ROCKLAND INSTITUTE A LAWN WATERING RESTRICTION..DO WE NEED LAWNS WATERED?WHILE THE REST OF US PAY FOR IT? How about a permit for lawn sprinklers charge 2500...and those who have a permit PAY DOUBLE..
NoName January 31, 2013 at 02:27 PM
Just another way for companies and NY State to dig their hands deeper into the taxpaying, consumer's pocket. This is another reason NY State will be all but abandoned someday down the road.
steve smith January 31, 2013 at 03:15 PM
Just stop residential development. upstate they protect themselves , such as in most places i know it is unlawful to subdivide land.
CR January 31, 2013 at 03:16 PM
I find it extremely hypocritical that the environmentalists and activists have aligned themselves with Bob Dillon, owner of a gas station cited for 30 violations. "...was fined after inspectors found 30 violations and saw an unidentified petroleum-like substance bubbling up from the ground." "The land, adjacent to the Palisades Center mall, is near a flood plain and close to the Hackensack River. Inspectors are worried that any contamination will find its way into the water supply." Are we to believe that he is concerned with our water supply? http://www.lohud.com/article/20111020/NEWS03/110200402/West-Nyack-gas-station-owners-fined-18-350-underground-leaks
CR January 31, 2013 at 03:30 PM
Rockland residents are already among the lowest per person users of water in the COUNTRY. Conservation can only go so far. I don't think your idea of instituting a watering ban will work. Who would enforce the restrictions, the police? They're already way overpaid for doing "real" police work. Would you also implement other restrictions (filling pools, washing cars, watering gardens, spraying off driveways/walkways, kids running through sprinklers)? Where would it end? "Hello, 911? Send someone over quick I see a five year old kidding running through an unauthorized sprinkler." Give me a break.
Ken McQuade January 31, 2013 at 06:52 PM
Once UW has their hands on an endless supply of water (the Hudson) you can kiss conservation and smart housing plans good-bye. What they are planning to build near 306 and 202 is just the tip of the iceberg. The goodship SS Rockland CVN-44 is sinking,
John Taggart January 31, 2013 at 10:17 PM
About 33 years ago this area suffered a drought. I was a kid and with some friends walked all around the nouth side of the res. The river that comes in under rt.304 and supplies the res was no more than 6 feet across where its normally 25 feet across. This was not from sending water to NJ this was because there was NO water. The population of Rockland has gone up many many times since then. They keep telling us ( the opposition ) that that will never happen, but it did and when it happens again we had better have a supply like the Hudson that is always available.
Bob January 31, 2013 at 11:26 PM
Is the time right for a State wide water authority similar in nature to the State Power Authority? New York State is blessed with several large rivers, two of the Great lakes and the entire Finger Lakes district. I would image a state water authority would serve as an inducement for industry to come to New York and know that their essential utilities will be available to them
George Potanovic Jr January 31, 2013 at 11:47 PM
The USGS study was completed in 2010. True, Paul Heisig was presenting the data at Lamont in 2010. But the official report was not released until later. So, saying that the report was not completed for release until 2011is true. What is your point about misinformation? The fact is that the PSC rendered its decision that Rockland needed more water at least FOUR YEARS before the USGS study was completed, well before the data from the study was released.
George Potanovic Jr January 31, 2013 at 11:50 PM
Your vague comments about "fear tactics" are not true do not serve to better understand the facts. What was presented on Tuesday night in Nanuet were facts on the real cost of desal and the shell game that United Water has been playing with our water and its New Jersey customers.
George Potanovic Jr February 01, 2013 at 12:24 AM
Unlike you, "CR," I know Bob Dillon and am proud to know him and stand with him against this "boondoggle" by United Water.
George Potanovic Jr February 01, 2013 at 12:28 AM
Our county is $100 M in debt. The County has just cut staff and services and socked us with am 18% property tax increase to make up for lost sales tax revenues. Now, United Water is proposing to raise our water bills by between $330 - $500 per family. We already have some of the highest energy rates in the country. Desal would make our water rates one of the highest in the country. Is this a good way to keep residents here and attract new business? I think not!
mike sullivan February 01, 2013 at 01:05 AM
UW just got closer to building the plant with the latest state approval.Finally moving in the right direction.We need the jobs and taxes in this county.I will be 1st in line for a nice glass of water when completed.
Watchdog February 01, 2013 at 03:42 AM
If you want to stop this insane zoning, don't go after the water company, throw the politicians, like Shoenberger and St Lawrence out.
Watchdog February 01, 2013 at 03:44 AM
Since when?
Nicholas February 01, 2013 at 08:49 PM
George, you know perfectly well what you are implying by using the 2011 date, that when the PSC reaffirmed their 2006 mandate in 2010, that UW increases its water supply, that the PSC did not have the results of USGS survey. When in reality they did, in fact UW stated (to me) that they had a copy in 2009, so we can only assume that the PSC did as well. Yes, the PSC did rendered their decision four years before the USGS report, but I provided a link to another survey in 2006 that also questioned the viability of our water supply. And the fact that UW had a permit in 1979 to build a new reservoir shows that the water shortage problem is not a new or manufactured one. However if you feel that the PSC is in error why not 'attack' them directly rather than UW. who is after all mandated to increase the water supply?
Nicholas February 01, 2013 at 08:55 PM
Sorry George, but that is the problem, you have made this about UW when in reality you should be questioning the PSC's mandate that UW increase their water supply.
CR February 04, 2013 at 06:31 PM
So George, you are admitting that it's hypocritical of the special interest environmental groups to align themselves with a polluter of the very water supply he and they are allegedly trying to protect?


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