The Rockland County Legislature’s Environmental Committee had early discussions on creating a county-wide water policy at Wednesday’s meeting, the committee’s first of the new year.
Dr. Dan Miller, the county hydrologist, made a presentation to the committee and the audience about what the policy might contain and what the Department of Health could do as part of a new policy.
He said the policy will try to ensure there is a proper quantity of water in the county for domestic, commercial and fire protection use, as well as make sure the quality of the water is safe for use in its intended form.
“All of the work we intend to do and lay out in this policy is focused on accomplishing those two goals,” Miller said.
He noted everything he talked about at Wednesday’s meeting was just a draft, and Alden Wolfe, chair of the committee, said it was just the first of many intended meetings on the topic. He said first the county needs to define its role in the new policy.
“Our focus, if we’re going to do this, really should be placed where we can have the most impact,” he said.
Miller said he didn’t have specifics to discuss at the meeting yet, but instead went over some categories where the Department of Health’s work would fall. They included regulatory enforcement, which he said might be the biggest area, provision or technical assistance, scientific investigation and public education.
He said they’ll also work in water conservation, which he placed in scientific investigation. In that area, Miller said the department was teamed with Columbia University, and more specifically, a senior workshop for sustainable development majors. They’ll work through the Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory in Palisades. They will “thoroughly evaluate feasibility of multiple water conservation measures,” Miller said.
“That’s something we’ve talked about before,” he said. “We can throw out ideas for conservation, but to make them useful we need to fully evaluate whether they truly are locally equipable, plus their cost, not only with respect to implementation but to cost of enforcement and potential economic impacts of the actions.”
He said they’ll also looking into the cost savings of those methods. Wolfe said the data they receive from the students will help them find out if a method of conservation is worth implementing.
“Utilizing these students is going to be very very helpful to us because they are going to be working very hard and coming up with some useful research,” said Legislature Chairwoman Harriet Cornell.
Miller added the students will look into data from other areas that have used conservation programs or methods, as well as rely heavily on data from the water’s Draft Environmental Impact Statement. He also said the Department of Health will participate in several classes during the semester and act as a sort of client for the workshop.
Legislator Nancy Low-Hogan said they should look into other water policies from around the state to see if there’s anything to pick up for Rockland’s.
“That can really help us and really inform us,” she said. “Of course we would put our own stamp on what the main issues that have to be addressed.”
Cornell said there are a bunch of different water-related concerns people have that will need to be looked at for the policy. Some she brought up were issues with flooding and the county having too much water so that it brings on potential over-development.
“This is an enormous topic that we have to go at in some sensible way and try to make some good things happen,” she said.
Wolfe said anyone with any ideas or concerns should follow up with the committee, either at a future meeting on the topic, or write, call or email them.
“This is the first of many meetings,” he said. “Today we're really just trying to frame things a little bit and let the public know what direction we were heading in.”
Bob Dillon, a member of the Rockland Water Coalition, could not attend Wednesday's meeting but sent a letter to the committee requesting that public workshop meetings be set up so the public can contribute to the drafting of the new county water policy.