Suez’s New York Desalination Plant Rejected by State

Posted by on Dec 23, 2014 | 1 comment

Bloomberg News story by Jim Polson Nov 13, 2014 3:01 PM ET For more, click HERE.


In November, Rockland g​rassroots environmental activists accomplished the impossible, stopping Suez, a multi-national corporation with plans for treating Hudson River water for Rockland County’s drinking water. After years of very hard work by citizens, elected officials, and environmental groups, on November 13 a proposal for an exorbitant and environmentally harmful desalination plant was rejected by the New York State Public Service Commission, which declared: UNITED WATER DIRECTED TO DISCONTINUE PURSUIT OF DESALINATION PLANT: Water Company Told to Explore Other Options for Water Sources.

One senior NYS staffer called the decision “an earthquake.”

The Rockland Water Coalition was formed seven years ago to fight this expensive, unsustainable project, which could irreparably harm the rich ecology of Haverstraw Bay, drive NY’s carbon footprint in the wrong direction, and expose residents to water drawn 3.5 miles downstream from Indian Point nuclear power plant, containing trace amounts of radioactive elements.

Thousands of residents packed hearings and submitted written comments opposing the plan. 26,000 citizens signed petitions against it.

On November 13, in a huge victory for the Coalition, the PSC determined that there is no immediate need for a new water supply source and ordered Suez/United Water to stop pursuing desalination.

The order from the Commissioners to Suez/United Water to shelve desalination and instead focus on financially and environmentally sound alternatives was a major turn-around for the state and a major step forward for the environment.

The news was not entirely positive that day. In a much more mixed decision on the same day, the PSC rejected for now the company’s application for a $60.3 million surcharge for pre-construction costs for the proposal, but also ruled that at least $40 million of these costs might be reimbursable in the future.

What we have gained, though, is huge and we would not have won this much without citizen groups in the Rockland Water Coalition and a key group of elected officials. With the newly established Rockland County Water Task Force, the stage is now set for the next phase, with the opportunity to work with nationally renowned experts to create a model water conservation policy. If we succeed, the result could be a model not only for New York State but for the region.

One Comment

  1. Although I’m not a community meembr, I’ve been researching the impending desal in Cambria for about 6 months now, just because it sparks my interest. There are a couple of problems with your argument against desal. First, recycled water isn’t potable and therefore wouldn’t be the best option for Cambria. The other leading water supply source in California is importing water. Both importing water and recycling water do require less energy and output less emissions that desal but the needs of Cambria can’t be met with either option. California currently has the largest imported water infrustructure in the world. The problem is, imported water has to be just that, imported. California has been in a drought emergency for 3 years now. With drought seasons getting more severe as the climate changes, expanding the imported water system would not be logical. Therefore, the remaining option is desal. Secondly, a desal plant is considered hazard mitigation for Cambria. Currently, Cambria does not have enough water and pressure for adaquate fire flow. That means that if a fire were to occur (Cambria is located in a very high fire hazard zone, fyi) there would not be enough water to adaquately fight it. Seeing as how most of the Montery Pine trees in the area are diseased and dying, it would be difficult to contain the fire. A lot of houses in Cambria are located within these pine trees. Second, the price of desal is higher, that’s true. So far though, the State has provided Cambria was approx. 10 million. Yes, some of the money (about 1/4) will have to come from residents. Is that all that bad when you consider the surcharges currently in place? These surcharges are subject to increases, which the residents have already seen. Third, desal does not destroy the environment! This is perhaps the arguement that irks me the most. Desal changes the environment, it doesn’t destroy it. Changes would include decreasing the pressure put on local streams. This would allow the environment to return to it natural state, increasing the fish population to it’s normal numbers, etc. Right now, drawing water from the natural aquifers are negatively impacting the environment, desal would reverse that. As for the water intakes, with current technology, these don’t impact the environment. I can’t remeembr where I saw the particular picture I’m thinking of but it showed organisms attached to the water intakes. They were living on the intakes. Desal also puts out water with higher concentrations of salt. This doesn’t destroy the environment, it changes it. The area it changes isn’t that large either. Think of Diablo Canyon, it outputs warm water. The waters surrouding Diablo Canyon are home to one of the largest populations of seals (I may have the animal species wrong, this is off of the top of my head). Basically, colder water organisms moved out and warmer water organisms move in . There’s just as much life there as before. Desal would have a similar effect in terms of salt concentration, not temperature. Fourth, the desal plant would produce enough water to manage Cambria at its current population. Even if it DID allow for a little growth, it’s worth it. More homes could be saved in case of a fire! So maybe you’re still asking how you’ll benefit from desal. I’ll review: Adaquate fire flow=saves homes, saves lives, saves money in case of a disaster. Environmental benefits= relieve pressure on streams. In addition, maybe a controlled burn could be done to revive the pine trees that Cambrians love so much. Residential benefits= clean water! and no more rediculous surcharges. I understand that this is the perspective of an outsider and therefore the desal plant doesn’t affect me. However, I have done my homework (literally) on desal in general and how Cambria would benefit from this type of water supply. Conservation is always #1 but it is unrealistic to think that conservation on its own will solve Cambria’s problems.

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