Packed crowd debates United Water plant; foes urge alternatives to treating Hudson water

Posted by on Mar 8, 2012 | 0 comments

GARNERVILLE — Opponents and supporters of United Water’s Hudson River water treatment plant gathered for a standing-room-only public hearing at Haverstraw Town Hall on Tuesday.

The water company wants to build the plant on part of Haverstraw town’s former landfill site, drawing water from the Hudson. At the plant, the river water would be purified by removing contaminants, salt and minerals. Then water would be disinfected before being delivered to homes and businesses in the area.

The public hearing, organized by the state Department of Environmental Conservation, was to receive public input on the plan’s draft environmental impact statement as well as the draft permits that the company needs to proceed with the plan.

Michael Pointing, United Water New York’s vice president and general manager, explained the need for the plant for a sustainable water supply in the area. The proposal would be the most cost-effective measure among available options, he said, adding that the purification method is a proven technology used by bottled-water companies.

Opponents of the plan disagreed and said it would drastically increase water rates for Rockland residents. They said United Water hasn’t seriously considered conserving water before moving ahead with the expensive project. Not letting United Water send excessive amounts of Rockland’s water to New Jersey would secure enough water for Rockland, they said.

“This is not simply the Haverstraw Water Supply Project. It could be called the Bergen Water Supply Project. New Jersey wants the water but they are not paying a penny for it,” said Laurie Seeman, outdoor and waterway educator, who also said she was concerned that the plant would ruin the valuable natural habitat in the Haverstraw Bay.

Bob Terry of New City said he wanted the DEC to reject the plan, and that he can’t think of drinking the Hudson River water because of its poor quality. He even wouldn’t want to put his boat in the river because it’s too dirty, he said.

“I put it in one time and it came out so dirty and so oily that I refuse to put my boat in the water again,” Terry said. “Now you want me to drink that water? I don’t think so.”

Other speakers said the plan would pose health risks to residents because of possible contamination from the Indian Point nuclear power plants in Buchanan. Clarkstown Town Board member Shirley Lasker was one of them.

“I have safety and health concerns with a plant within 3.4 miles of Indian Point,” Lasker said. “There are more cost-effective and environmentally friendly methods to increase Rockland County’s water supply, and those should be implemented first.”

Supporters of the plan emphasized the need to expand the tax base to reduce the tax burden in northern Rockland, which was hit hard by Mirant’s successful tax challenges. Haverstraw village Mayor Michael Kohut and West Haverstraw Mayor John Ramundo applauded United Water’s due diligence as they worked on the pilot plant built in West Haverstraw.

“We have good experience with United Water over the years,” Ramundo said, noting that throughout the 14-month process for the pilot plant project, United Water did exactly what it said it would do. “We need a reliable long-term water supply.”

The deadline for written comments on the project is April 20.

Written by Akiko Matsuda on 3-7-2012

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