Desalination Plant Opposition Speaks Out At Legislature

Plus a roundup of other items discussed Wednesday


Opponents of United Water’s proposed desalination plant in Haverstraw spoke out against the plant at Wednesday night’s Rockland County Legislature meeting during the public comments portion of the meeting.

There was no vote on anything relating to the desalination plant at the meeting, but the environmental committee is schedule to meet next Wednesday at 5:15 p.m. to discuss two possible resolutions relating to the plant.

Natalie Patasaw, chair of the Rockland Environmental Management Council, said there are too many uncertainties surrounding the plant for it to be allowed.

“We have too many unanswered questions regarding the real needs of such an expensive source of water supply,” she said. “Additionally, there are too many conflicting statements about the actual need for this water source above all alternatives, including conservation." 

She added that so many public comments and questions have been raised that she thinks more research is needed.

“How can we responsibly proceed without taking all of this into consideration?” she said. “If it’s rushed into service without further study and analysis, more reasonably priced alternatives will be overlooked.”

Tom O’Reilly read a statement from former legislator and retired FDNY lieutenant Bob Jackson aimed at United Water New York.

“In your mailings I have seen a photo of a burning house and another photo of a dripping fire hose nozzle,” Jackson wrote. “I have heard one of your radio commercials in which a person says, ‘What if there’s no water to put out a fire?’ I have spoken with fire officials in Rockland County and I am told that there has never been a situation in which there was not a sufficient water supply to extinguish a fire.

“For you to suggest that without a desalination plant, the firefighters in Rockland County would not have a sufficient water supply to fight fires in the future is despicable.”

The desalination plant wasn’t the only item discussed at the meeting, however. Here are some other notes from Wednesday’s meeting:

  • The legislature voted unanimously in favor of a Memorandum of Understanding between the county and all five towns for the operation of a regional investigation resource center for the period of Aug. 1, 2012 through July 31, 2013. Legislator Ed Day praised District Attorney Thomas Zugibe for his efforts. “He’s found a way to make things work in difficult times, and I think it’s important that we recognize that because that’s exactly the kind of thing we need here in order to make government work, and importantly, to make the mission of law enforcement work,” Day said. 
  • The public hearing for the 2013 county budget was set for Nov. 20 at 7:05 p.m.
  • The legislature approved an appropriation of $25,793 in funds requested by the sheriff to cover Rockland County Police Academy’s services of the director, use of force coordinator, in-service coordinator and basic school coordinator through the end of this calendar year, with funds anticipated through the collection of additional public safety fee revenue over what is currently budgeted for 2012 for the police academy.
  • The sheriff’s request for $43,200 in federal forfeiture funds was also approved. The funds will go to the police academy for lighting and equipment for the police range.
mike sullivan October 04, 2012 at 09:19 PM
i agree with united water on this,though it has never happened if we do not have this desalination plant it is a real possibility.We need this in Rockland County,not only for the water but for the jobs,not just construction but permanent jobsonce construction is done.North Rockland needs this to survive,without this tax ratable homeowners will see double% tax increases
Issy October 04, 2012 at 09:36 PM
The problem is that the 'nays' attack United Water, when in fact all they are doing is fulfilling their mandate by the NY Public Service Commission (PSC) to provide a new source of water by 2015. This is based on the PSC evaluation that Rockland could face a potential negative water situation by that year. And yes conservation may forestall the possibility, but at some point, given that the US has been experiencing widespread droughts, we will fall into a negative water situation so the prudent thing is to be prepared, because if not, when it happens it will be too late to do anything about it.
Dennis October 05, 2012 at 11:30 AM
With continued building in Rockland County that United Water has no control over yet are required to provide water for it's customers; the desalination plant is one component using the resource of the Hudson River with proven technology. Dennis W. Hardy-Former Mayor-Village of Piermont
CR October 06, 2012 at 01:12 AM
Is that a picture of Robert Dillon? Is it the same Robert Dillon who owned a gas station that was fined over $18,000 for allowing old gasoline storage tanks to leak into the ground and potentially into the Hackensack River? Does anyone else find it ironic that the Special Interest Group Environmentalists have aligned themselves with an owner of a property which the DOH "...has never seen a parcel of property pose as great a risk as this one." If in fact it is the same Robert Dillon of course. How do you say, "hypocritical"? http://www.lohud.com/article/20111020/NEWS03/110200402/West-Nyack-gas-station-owners-fined-18-350-underground-leaks
Rita J October 06, 2012 at 01:51 AM
Read the DEIS. This plant will employ less than 10 permanent people when it is on line. Hardly worth the risk of drinking irradiated water, don't you think? More jobs will be created if United water works on their infrastructure, fixes the leaks and maintains their facilities more aggressively. And, we will have a better supply of water. UW, by their own account, loses 7.28 mgd to leaks (million gallons per day unaccounted for). A it's maximum capacity, the plant will produce 7.5 mgd. Wrth 189 million dollars to build? I think not. Rockland cannot afford this plant.
Rita J October 06, 2012 at 01:54 AM
The information given to the PSC was based on faulty data. New information has come out since then that clearly states our water supply is adequate and the aquifers are recharging at a much healthier rate than previously thought. The increase in cost t the people of Rockland will be astronomical. The decrease in property values, risk to health and huge energy expeditures will cause irreparable damage to the county.
Issy October 06, 2012 at 08:09 AM
Rita, that is just not true. This report by USGS Paul Hessig made no determination on the adequacy of our water supply for future needs but did state that our water supply was healthier than first thought. This report caused the PSC to re-evaluate their 2007 mandate, but they draw the same conclusion and issued a 2010 mandate to UW to seek additional water supply. Yes cost is a real issue, the health risks and property values are not (that is just scare tactics) and yes there are environmental concerns, but this pales in comparison to what would happen if we faced a sustained drought similar to those being experienced in other parts of the country and which happening in Rockland in the 1960s.
Rita J October 08, 2012 at 06:25 PM
I'm not sure where you've gotten your information on a 2010 revised mandate. I think that may have to do withthe rate increase. The complete USGS study did not come out until 2011, so even the 2010 re-evaluation, if there was one, was premature. Point of interest: the plant, at full cap[acity, will produce 7.25mgd of potable water. By UW own account, they lose 7.28mgd of treated water to leaks and other non-detected issues. So, do we need to pay 189million for a plant to make up for the leaks, or, I have an idea! How about we make them fix the leaks and improve the existing infrastructure. Jobs, jobs, jobs and water, water, water...
John Taggart October 08, 2012 at 06:57 PM
Rita, the leakes are mostly on the privatly owned side of the system, the rest are normal for this type of system. And Ive watched U.W. replace alot of piping in older areas like where I live. Indian points days are numbered and the radiation is nothing compaired to the normal background radiation we already get. I take personal offence as a Haverstraw resident to people saying this river isn't as good or better than any other river in the nation ( history aside), 50 years of sewer treatment plants and no dumping has made it so. River keeper had NOTHING to do with it. Finally on jobs, there will be alot of hi tech construction jobs for 5 years then 10 or 15 permanent WELL PAID UNION JOBS AT U.W. Ten jobs created in Rockland that a family can own a home and raise a family on are worth 60 tee shirt sale and waiter jobs at the mall.
Issy October 08, 2012 at 07:03 PM
Rita, I attended a lecture by Paul Hessig outlining his report in spring 2010 so I am sure his findings were available for the summer 2010 PSC mandate which is referenced in the DEIS. As for water waste even the most modern water system has an average of 15% waste, much of it going to leaks, theft, fire departments and system maintenance. Rockland's pipes are up to 100 years old and follow main roads (making the pipes prone to leaks) So unless you propose digging up the whole of Rockland County you will never be able to realize any substantial water savings. Besides the fact that this does not address the water supply issue, which is the point of the PSC mandate.
Rita J October 10, 2012 at 02:22 PM
SEE: Case 09-W-0731 United Water New York Rates May22, 2010 A Public Comment hearing was held in May 2010 that had to do with the rate increase. The completed USGS was released 9 months later. There was no PSC mandate revision on the original Joint Proposal, but we may have an opportunity now for the PSC to take a closer look at this. Before we make a committment that will forever change the entire County and dramatically affect all of our lives, don't you think we ought to be 1000% sure this is a real problem and this is the correct solution, if there is, in fact, a problem?
Rita J October 10, 2012 at 02:58 PM
Now that the estimated cost of the plant is exceeding 189 milion dollars, expect your water rates to increase by $400-$600 and taxes to increase substantially due to infrastructure issues with solid waste & trucking. See below: Michael J. Pointing’s testimony in Case 09-W-0731 United Water New York Rates From testimony to the New York State Public Service Commission on 3-8-2010 by Michael J. Pointing, United Water New York Vice-President and General Manger. “The Haverstraw Water Supply Project is currently estimated to cost approximately $140 million when completed.” “This is significant and should be considered in relation to the overall customer cost upon completion of the facility which could easily approach $270 to $300 per customer per year. The equivalent of a phase-in through incremental surcharges will lessen the rate shock that would otherwise exist.” (See: Michael Pointing PSC Testimony 3-8-2010 Page 36 Line 23 through Page 38 Line 2)
Issy October 10, 2012 at 05:33 PM
Rita, that is the point I have been making all along. Instead of ridiculous posts about UW being French and meaningless talk of reduced property values, this discussion comes down to one issue, "can we meet our future water supply". As it stands hydrologists are in the 'maybe' to 'no' camp (hardly convincing), especially in light of climate change and/or droughts and it is their opinions that counts, not real estate agents on a panel. I am all for the PSC to review and to continue to review their mandate, but at this moment we must plan for an additional water source.
Rita J October 10, 2012 at 06:36 PM
Totally agree, Issy, we must "plan" for our water future. This involves careful consideration of all the vartiables, which the DEIS does not do. Desalination of the Hudson River should be the very last alternative, when all other options are depleted. We are in a water rich region, a valley. We are not and island, desert or submarine. The good people of Rockland should not be forced to drink artificially produced water at a premium price while our fresh water flows downstream to New Jersey. And, yes, real estate values do count. People will not want to settle in Rockland to raise their families with Hudson River water coming from the tap. That is a fact. Also, you can no sooner predict drought due to "global warming" than you can floods. We will have ebbs and flow of both in years to come.
Issy October 10, 2012 at 08:33 PM
Rita, in reality we are an island in that almost all of our water comes from Rockland and considering our low replenish rate (average 16 years) our water supply is very perceptible to droughts. The desalination plant gives us an 'outside' source that is essentially drought-proof and I would suggest that this would increase our property values given the uncertainty of the affects of climate change. The outflow from Lake Deforest is governed by the size of the watershed not the flow to NJ which is protected. Any extra release (although illegal) does not affect the supply to Rockland. 20mg/day flows into Lake Deforest of which 10mg/day is earmarked for Rockland and this is not changeable. Due to the size of Lake Deforest, even if there was no extra discharge this would do nothing to change the dynamics of a potential looming water shortage which is why the extra flow to NJ is irrelevant to the PSC mandate.
Rita J October 11, 2012 at 01:48 PM
"potentally looming water shortage"? That's about as vague as it gets. Do you really think we should change the very existence of Rockland County based on a hypothetical? What the PSC and DEC have to do is establish the facts. Not the facts as provided by United Water, the real facts. And Desal, the most expensive way on earth to produce potable water, should be the very last resort after all other solutions are exhausted. We are not an island. We are a valley, surrounded by mountains with hundreds of lakes, streams and waterways. We do not have a water shortage problem, we have a water management problem and we need to think outside of the box before we force Rocklanders to drink from the Hudson. This concept is overwhelmingly rejected by Rocklanbd County residents. That, in itself, should be enough for us to be looking at other solutions. It's about the people.
Issy October 11, 2012 at 10:16 PM
We will have future droughts and there will be water shortages possibly as early as 2015 according to the PSC, so it is not a hypothetical, Please state your evidence that UW gave false facts to the PSC do you have copies of their falsehoods? Hundred of lakes streams and waterways, none of which are available to Rockland as a water source. What water management problem? The water is controlled by the DEC not UW. Where is you evidence that Rocklanders overwhelming reject the Desal Plant, do you have poll numbers? Certainly there is a vocal opposition, but that does not make them a majority.


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