Letter to the Editor: Alternative to Desalination Water Plant

Expensive Way to Keep the Grass Green. A letter to the editor by Robert Kecskes from Pennington, New Jersey


Dear Editor,

As the retired manager of regional water supply planning for the State of New Jersey, I’ve been reading with interest the debate over the proposed United Water desalination plant in Rockland County.

Based on my 35 years of experience, Rockland County does not have a “water supply” problem; rather, it has a “water irrigation” problem. During hot, dry summers, United Water’s demand nearly doubles. These peaks are primarily due to large homes and businesses that irrigate their lawns.

If Rockland County is anything like suburban New Jersey, less than 10 percent of homes and businesses irrigate and cause these peak demands. Watering a larger home’s one-acre lawn will use 8,000 gallons of water a day. That’s enough water to meet the needs of nearly 30 homes that do not irrigate!

If not for these large demands caused by a small portion of the County’s population, United Water can likely meet the County’s current and projected water supply needs without building the desalination plant. Reducing or even eliminating these peak demands would probably dispose of need for the multi-million dollar plant.

This desalination proposal should not be advanced until all conservation alternatives have been thoroughly and impartially considered. A water audit of these larger users could lead to recommendations that could greatly reduce peak usage. The rest of Rockland County’s residents and businesses should not have to see their water rates double (or more) so that these large users can continue to irrigate without restraint.

Robert Kecskes

Pennington, New Jersey

Eve Sheridan August 25, 2012 at 06:35 PM
Issy, I fear you are drinking the Kool-aid provided by Suez- I have read that, too, but take a look at some of the other viewpoints. http://www.sustainablerockland.org/wp-content/uploads/TRITIUM-in-OUR-DRINKING-WATER-HOW-MUCH-IS-SAFE....pdf http://www.sustainablerockland.org/wp-content/uploads/DOS-Haverstraw-Bay-2011.pdf Fish population levels in this area are “unusual in the northeastern U.S.“ According to the Department of State Coastal Management Program, “Haverstraw Bay is a critical habitat for most estuarine-dependent fisheries originating from the Hudson River… Consequently, commercial and recreational fisheries throughout the North Atlantic depend on, or benefit from, these biological inputs from the Hudson River estuary.” Before taking risks with such a rich and productive ecosystem, withdrawing freshwater and discharging toxins and brine into this critical area, we should be prioritizing sustainable alternatives. http://www.crocodyl.org/wiki/suez_environnement Eve
Eve Sheridan August 25, 2012 at 06:35 PM
"Environment and product safety: In many of the situations described above, the performance problems exhibited by Suez and its affiliates and predecessor companies included damage to the environment from poor handling of sewage. These are not the only such cases. For example, during the ten years that Suez subsidiary United Water operated the water system of Milwaukee, billions of gallons of sewage were improperly released into Lake Michigan and other waterways. When the company’s contract expired in 2008, the city decided to dump United Water and go with another private operator. Anti-competitive and consumer protection: In November 2007 the Italian Competition Authority fined Suez Environnement 3 million euros for engaging in an anti-competitive arrangement relating to the water services industry with the Italian company ACEA." Read it all and weep. You will see that Suez, the parent company of United Water, is also in the media business, so they are true experts in PR, and have succeeded in convincing you that this is the best alternative. Their materials are super-slick, and they have many people working to burnish their image. There are many other combinations of less destructive options than a de-sal plant here. Even in Melbourne, where it was extremely dry, they did not make a success of it. And the consumers are paying the price.
Eve Sheridan August 25, 2012 at 06:37 PM
Suez, the parent company of United Water, is also in the media business, so they are true experts in PR.
Eve Sheridan August 25, 2012 at 06:41 PM
bit.ly/P3J9VG More on the track record of United Water
Issy August 25, 2012 at 07:04 PM
Eve, cut out the kool-aid nonsense, just because I have come to a different conclusion please do not resort to childish insults. I have listen to the testimony of four hydrologists, conducted my own research, attended practically all meetings opposed to the plant and addressed my concerns directly to United Water's President Michael Pointing and visited the test plant. So do not fool yourself by dismissing my arguments based on your prejudices, I have endeavored to inform myself (and continue to do so) So no I am not drinking Kool Aid, I do not just blindly believe anything someone tells me just because they drive a boat on the Hudson River and have a political agenda.
Issy August 25, 2012 at 07:12 PM
The fact is Eve, United Water is our water company and the PSC has mandated them to provide a new source of water. So either the PSC has to rescind this mandate or UW have to provide a new source of water. In light of this mandate the Haverstraw Plant makes the most sense. Any nonsesne about UW being a bad company are irrelevant to the discussion of whether we need additional water supply or not. The simple fact is, this is about science, does Rockland have enough water supply for the future. The PSC says no and are demanding UW take action. So if you have an objection to the plant I would start with the PSC mandate rather than attacking UW for doing what the State requires them to do.
Eve Sheridan August 25, 2012 at 07:46 PM
Why do you say it is nonsense that a company who has the record of some of the things UW has done, for example in Gary, Indiana and Milwaukee, WI, to name 2 of many, is not not responsible? And I am sure Michael Ponting is pro de-sal, why wouldn't he be? But there are other less invasive options, and the entire subject of how much water we have and lack is also controversial, depending upon which studies and projections you believe. There are different results. And what about all the Lake DeForest reservoir water being sent out of state? Why don't we use that here? I think the evidence leads me to suspect that it is really NJ that needs water, but that the closest non-protected site on the Hudson is Haverstraw, so Rockland will pay the price for NJ. It should be explained in a transparent way. We could cooperate.
Eve Sheridan August 25, 2012 at 07:47 PM
PS, what boat captain do you refer to? I don't know any boaters here.
Watchdog August 25, 2012 at 08:06 PM
Issy August 25, 2012 at 08:08 PM
The water going to NJ is DEC mandated under riparian rights and can not be increased, so no the plant is for Rockland not NJ. That is just more scare nonsense, And yes in light of the PSC mandate, then any past dealings of UW are irrelevant, we have to deal with the problem Rockland faces today, based on the facts not bias or political opinions opinions. I would interesting in seeing these studies that project that Rockland does not have a projected water problem as I am sure the PSC would. The issue is simple does Rockland need additional water supply, that is what we should be discussing, not whether UW is a 'bad' company.
John Taggart August 25, 2012 at 08:13 PM
Eve, I know that responce was harsh,thats why I got up and deleted it at 2 am. Eve the plant won't and can't damage the fish or any other wildlife when opperating. Water is taken from a dredged area where is seeps through nets, the holes in the nets are smaller than eggs and there is no pull or vortex pulling water in through the nets. Thats how it is at bowline. Only Indian Point needs to draw water so fast that fish die against the nets. When lake deforest was built hundreds of acres were flooded all life in that area was displaced or destroyed, but we needed a water source. Now we need more water to process for drinking again and more processing ability due to our expansion. To flood out another 300 acres of habitat for a res and not use the Hudson is environmentally wrong. Will water rates go up to cover building more capacity? I guess so.Thats what happens when a comunity doubles in size and waits to the last minute to act on the growing need, but there is govt regulation on pricing, just like when O&R asks for more. Im more worried about the govt, like the county use taxes ect. All and any jobs matter. Rockland is great at creating tee shirt sales and resturant jobs. 20 good jobs you can own a home on is much better. When environmentalists continually say to every project it dosen't creat enough jobs to matter, at the end of the day many projects will add up to hundreds of good jobs lost.
John Taggart August 25, 2012 at 08:23 PM
The river that feeds lake deforest continues down through NJ and feeds other resivoirs. That river has run that way for a thousand years you cant divert it and starve our neighbors. We have out grown our supply, we have built on every inch of land and put off thinking about our supply... and we still do it.... When you live on a river you get your water from the river, thats your resource
Watchdog August 25, 2012 at 08:44 PM
Eve, forgive me but you keep getting sidetracked. There are only two issues. Do we need more clean water and where do we source it? On the first point, even if we do not need it now, a project like this has to be kick started years before. Water is second only to breathable air in terms of our survival. An abundant supply should be welcomed. As far as the source, 97% of the worlds water is in our oceans and rivers. Seems like a no brained if we could convert this water for everyday use. I empathize with you about the cost and if it is a problem why not lobby UW to create a good neighbor fund to be accessed by people whose resources are limited.nResidents could contribute a dollar or two to their monthly bill. Please stop with the dangerous impediments which will be either filtered out or are not dangerous. As far as rogue corporations, you need not go to France, GE has a lot more on its plate regarding lawsuits than UW and they paid Zero income taxes last year. Lastly, we have no choice, United Water is our water company and the only water shipped to NJ is the amount mandated.
Eve Sheridan August 25, 2012 at 09:00 PM
Go back to the original letter at the top of this discussion, we could do without additional water from de-sal if we were conscious of our use and expansion. Many parts of the worl have far far less and function quite well. We don't need to run hoses for fun.
Boardwatcher August 25, 2012 at 09:10 PM
We need the plant. Rockland is overdeveloped and any available parcel is being or will be built upon. Unless somebody reins in the gross over development their has to be a source for more water and the Hudson has it in spades. Yes, Suez is French but the people working there are our neighbors and friends. We're one drought away from this becoming an overpriced emergency project.
Issy August 25, 2012 at 09:15 PM
Eve, I thought you said that there were studies showing that we do not have a water problem so why should there be a need for any draconian water cuts?
Watchdog August 25, 2012 at 09:21 PM
Issy makes a good point. Why should I have to cut back or as you said in another blog plant wild flowers ( to hide snakes) instead of grass.
Eve Sheridan August 25, 2012 at 10:02 PM
Hey guys, If any of you can provide me with solid scientific support, from a source NOT connected with UW, and pro de-sal, I will be happy to read it and reply after that. What 4 hydrologists? Who are they? I might be swayed by their reports also. But have none of you looked into Melbourne, or Gary, Indiana? Why do you think that a huge multi-national corporation can be trusted with your interests? Why must the over-development in Rockland continue? And wouldn't you be willing to cut back if there actually were a shortage, or would you just expect to continue over-consuming as always? If there were a way to use the Hudson water without huge cost and consumption of energy, it would make sense. If the storm drains were designed to replenish the ground water it would make sense, too. There are ways to get and conserve water beyond de-sal, which is great for Saudi Arabia. They have solar for the electricity there, too. In a case like that it makes sense.
Eve Sheridan August 25, 2012 at 10:17 PM
I seem to feel a current in all this argument of: "why should I have to change my habits for a better future for all? Why should I (ME me me) have to conserve anything? Let's just use more and more, drain, poison and heat the Hudson so I can have a green lawn. (And I will cover it with Nitrogen, too, and pesticides, who cares? Who cares if they drain into the lakes and ponds an rivers and disrupt aquatic life and everything turns to green slime???? Just so long as I can have my nice green grass." UGH- fine, it's your back yard, do just as you please. Then let a corrupt corporation dictate the fix for it, so you can keep over-consuming, and charge us all up the gazoo for it. I understand the jobs argument, jobs are always good, but converting the groundwater conservation system so that more wells would be replenished, and drilling them and so forth and piping them, would not that also create jobs?
Eve Sheridan August 25, 2012 at 10:22 PM
I would rather have a company I could trust. Based on the Suez's record, they are NOT trustworthy, or even very consistently competent. What about Atlanta?
Eve Sheridan August 25, 2012 at 10:26 PM
John, I take your point about the river that runs down from Lake DeForest, but it our storm sewers did not drain all rain water directly to the Hudson, but let it replenish the aquifer, we would be in much better shape for ground water. (Here and in Jersey too) And if people cared enough about the land to make small sacrifices, like less lawn watering, things that other regions do as a mater of course, we might avoid this costly scheme, which is devised mainly as a money-making project for the company.
Eve Sheridan August 25, 2012 at 10:29 PM
If you were truly concerned about water you would be willing to conserve it.
John Taggart August 25, 2012 at 10:50 PM
John Taggart August 25, 2012 at 10:59 PM
One well is already depleting the other. Over drilled already. When they build lake deforest they figured for some growth but not this. Clarkstown even built over swampy bird sanctuarys, by my moms house, by the res., the swamps I grew up in. I will not conserve anything thats easily obtainable, water and electricity. We can get water and hydro power right here. We just need to blow the hull of the riverkeeper and such.
Eve Sheridan August 25, 2012 at 11:10 PM
I agree with you on the swamps, but not on conserving "easily obtainable" resources. There is a price to pay for everything. If we had more swamps, we would have a better aquifer.
John Taggart August 25, 2012 at 11:14 PM
YES, I think it the Preserve Ramapo ramapo sight that has a 27 page deposition by the guy in charge of watching our water conditions. I read the whole thing a while ago. Bottom line, fire hydrents go low , we are ENTIRLY DEPENDANT ON RAIN, we eirther have to burn down and evac. 1/3 of the population or get a nwe reliable supply.... or just deny our selves an abundant recource buy not processing and providing it and walk backwards to make control freaks happy, and reduce our greatness.
John Taggart August 25, 2012 at 11:43 PM
My parents bought that land being told it was a protected sanctuary, for ever, for bird migration. Its the polititions who built structure with out the support it needed. We pay the price now.....apoligize for deleted comment yesterday...I'm just on the other side on this one
Eve Sheridan August 25, 2012 at 11:57 PM
I'm sorry about your parent's land. That hurts, I know. I don't want to control others, but I want to control myself for the good of all. I like having abundant water, too. I have not conserved it here, (except during the rare dry years) as we have a septic/deep well system, and I know that what I use will recycle. I just feel that there should be a way to do that on a larger scale. It is really true that de-sal uses a HUGE amount of electricity, even here where the water has less salt than in other places. And that electricity comes from India Point. I have lived at times in places where water was very very scarce, and I know that one can do a lot with a little when necessary.
John Taggart August 26, 2012 at 12:32 AM
We will replace Indian point with a better source. The fact that it needs so much water so fast to control its heat does kill fish. I learned alot in the swamp , my dad would get me 4 tire tubes and 1/2 sheet of plywood so i could push around. More different life in a swamp than anywhere else. Good night Eve.
Eve Sheridan August 26, 2012 at 04:43 AM
Good night, and thanks for that lovely image from your childhood. Have you seen any grasshoppers lately? Miss them--


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