Questions Raised About Adequacy of County Water Supply

Engineer says new long-term water supply needed based on water supply experts


Dear Editor:

As a professional engineer, longtime member of the Rockland County firefighting community, and former executive director of a public water supply system, I am compelled to respond to Robert Jackson’s recent letter regarding the county’s water supply. While I have the greatest respect for Mr. Jackson’s experience as a firefighter and officer, his opinion regarding the present or future ability of United Water to meet the fire suppression and potable water needs of Rockland County must be weighed against those of experts in the field of water supply.

The head of the Rockland County Department of Health’s Water Supply Bureau, Dr. Daniel Miller, who is qualified to offer such opinions, provided sworn testimony on the issue in United Water’s 2006 rate proceeding. Dr. Miller was asked the following question and provided the following answer:

Q.         In your professional opinion is UWNY consistently capable of delivering an    adequate and reliable supply of water to Rockland County?

A.         No.

In the same proceeding, Dr. Miller was asked the following question and provided the following answer regarding firefighting capabilities in Rockland County:

Q.         In your professional opinion is UWNY consistently capable of delivering a safe supply of water?

A.         In terms of water quality, yes. Temporary reductions in water quality during periods of high demand have not, to my knowledge, compromised the safety of the water supplied. In terms of safety issues that can result from an inadequate supply capacity, I would have to say that UWNY's system-wide capabilities are marginal, and that there may already be safety issues, e.g., deficiencies in fire-fighting capabilities, in localized areas. If any of the short-term projects that UWNY has proposed to increase supply capacity are significantly delayed for any reason, safety issues will become more wide spread.

A water utility has a responsibility to provide an adequate supply of water to meet both domestic and fire flow demands. The Insurance Services Office (ISO) evaluates a water system’s ability to meet such demands as part of its periodic surveys of the fire defenses of a community. The community’s basic fire insurance rate is based upon such surveys. A water system must be able to meet the needed fire flow demand for up to 3 hours, depending upon various factors including building size and type. The utility must be able to supply such flows while also meeting its domestic demands, such as on a hot summer day when demands are at their highest. UWNY must size its supply works to meet such combined future demands, and that is what the proposed Haverstraw Water Supply Project is designed to accomplish.

Mr. Jackson’s opinion that Rockland County does not need a major water supply project to meet its firefighting and potable water supply needs runs contrary to the expert conclusions of the Rockland County Department of Health, New York State Public Service Commission, County of Rockland, and the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation.

An adequate and reliable water supply is critical to the public health, safety, and economic vitality of Rockland County. And while United Water has made supply improvements over the years, and Rocklanders are very responsible in their use of water, the fact remains that a new major source of water is required. Without a new long-term water supply, the day may come in the near future when there may not be sufficient capacity to effectively fight a major fire during heavy demand periods. Further delay could jeopardize the safety of Rockland residents, firefighters and property owners.

Very truly yours,
John G. Hock, PE
Civil Engineer


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