Here’s a story for background on some of the issues regarding United Water New York’s proposed plant, the PSC hearings, etc. It originally published online on Aug. 21:
By Laura Incalcaterra
Water use has fallen in Rockland County but United Water New York still wants to build a $130 million treatment plant that would tap the Hudson River for additional supply.
Due to the recession, numerous “top users” of water have ceased doing business in Rockland since 2006, a new United Water report says. The loss of those customers helped offset a rise in population that used additional water but less than the amount represented by the top users, United Water said.
But the population is continuing to increase, the economy is rebounding and additional long-term supply is needed, Michael Pointing, vice president and general manager of United Water New York, told The Journal News in an exclusive interview.
“The small gap that’s been provided by some of the larger users will actually reverse,” Pointing said. “We need to get moving as quickly as possible.”
He said a new water supply is needed by the end of 2015.
Members of the Rockland Water Coalition, including George Potanovic of Stony Point, question the need for United Water’s proposed Haverstraw plant. The coalition backs deeper conservation efforts to put off the need for a major new water supply, and Potanovic said a hard look at conservation has yet to be taken.
“They never really looked at conservation,” he said. “They dismissed it as being an insignificant act.”
In its report, United Water says its Rockland customers already conserve water and that further conservation without additional supply will not meet the county’s future water demands.
Meanwhile, public hearings that will focus on the report have been rescheduled by the state Public Service Commission to Oct. 1 and 2 after numerous complaints.
The agency had set them for Sept. 9, the first day of school in Rockland, and for Sept. 10, which is Primary Day. Both dates also fall during one of the holiest weeks for Jews, who observe Rosh Hashanah on Sept. 5 and Yom Kippur on Sept. 14. Rockland County Legislature Chairwoman Harriet Cornell, who wrote to PSC Chairman Garry Brown to request a date change, said she supported pushing the hearings back to give people a chance to review the report.
“It seemed as if it wasn’t giving even a minimum amount of time,” Cornell said.
The location of the hearings is still to be announced, but the PSC called Cornell to tell her the dates had been changed, she said.
United Water’s controversial project is before the state Department of Environmental Conservation but opponents have raised scores of questions and demanded an issues conference to get answers, including about the costs that would be passed on to ratepayers.
The DEC has yet to announce whether the conference will be held, and neither the agency nor Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s office provided a response to The Journal News despite repeated inquiries.
Instead, the PSC said last month it would review the need for additional water supply and require United Water to consider new information in a report. The 53-page report discusses how the company determined the amount of water that would be needed when it calculated supply requirements several times since 2006.
The company said that as of January, it can produce 33.96 million gallons of water daily, or mgd, and up to 51.78 mgd on a short-term, peak-use basis, such as would be needed on very hot summer days.
But the company also has committed to providing water to 18 new commercial projects and housing developments in 2013. Most are in the proposal stage, and though it’s possible some may never be built, the water promised must be allotted even if it’s only on paper.
Pointing said the developers of another 18 projects, all but one of them housing, already have contacted the company to inquire about a water supply, showing the need for additional water.
The company, which provides drinking water to the majority of homes and businesses in Rockland, was required to add to its long-term water supply as part of a settlement to a 2006 water rate-increase case. The company has spent more than $50 million on its efforts to get the project on the Haverstraw town waterfront approved and is seeking to recoup the money through a $4.96 monthly surcharge on ratepayers. It also seeks a rate hike of $12 per month.