Rockland County Task Force on Water Resource Management Discusses Initiatives Throughout Rockland

On Monday night, The Rockland County Task Force on Water Resource Management met at the New City Public Library to discuss important initiatives throughout Rockland County. The panel was comprised of the Task Force committee chairs and its members who were open to questions and discussion from present community members.

The meeting opened with a presentation by Charmaine Cigliano, Section Manager of Customer Energy Services at Orange and Rockland. Cigliano spoke about some of the O&R program highlights from 2009 – present which included 17,000 MWh of energy savings, 26 MW of peak demand savings, 110,000 Dth of natural gas savings, 32,000 tons of carbon reduced and 28,500,000 gallons of water savings.

Cigliano also spoke about some of O&R’s energy efficiency, residential, low income, commercial, demand response, and REV demonstration programs. She emphasized how O&R focuses on the areas with the most need for these programs and then targets these areas. She also highly encouraged residents to go their website – www.oru.com – to see some of these programs. Cigliano’s presentation will be posted on the Task Force website – www.rocklandgov.com/departments/planning/task-force-on-water-resources-management/.

Cigliano was followed by Sam Rulli, Task Force member and Senior Public Health Engineer at the Rockland County Department of Health. Rulli spoke about the recent water company quality information report as well as recent media reports on water quality in the county.

Rulli thoroughly explained some of the definitions and numbers which were recorded on Suez’s annual water quality report for 2016. These reports can be found at www.mysuezwater.com/water-in-my-area/water-quality-reports.

Rulli transitioned into a discussion about a recent article published by the Patch which stated that there were cancer-causing pollutants which were found in New City’s drinking water. According to the Environmental Working Group, “many of the 250-plus contaminants detected through water sampling and testing are at levels that are perfectly legal under the Safe Drinking Water Act or state regulations, but well above levels authoritative scientific studies have found to pose health risks.”

However, Rulli emphasized that many of these “contaminants” are naturally occurring substances in the water or they are used to maintain drinking water quality. He stated that all of these contaminants are far below harmful levels, and that while adding personal filtration systems to homes can be beneficial, they can actually become more harmful if the filters are not maintained or replaced regularly as they can build up bacteria.

Some audience members mentioned the presence of discolored and brown water found in North Rockland. Rulli stated that some discoloration on occasion is normal as iron is naturally occurring in Rockland County water; however, regular or continual discoloration is definitely a problem which Suez has been trying to tackle.

There have been many complaints with Suez in addition to this reoccurring problem in North Rockland. Many feel that Suez is out of touch with members of the community and their needs. In January 2017, Suez issued a report titled “Evaluation of Low-Income Assistance Programs.” This report included proposed low-income discount plans and proposed low-income rebate plans.

Suez was ordered to solicit public and stakeholder input during the process of developing these programs. Suez held two public meetings; however, Suez failed to publicize these meetings and scheduled them at a time and location in which most of the affected members of the public were unable to attend. The meetings were held in the middle of the day during week days, and they were not held in or near the low-income areas which they would affect.

Many other important updates followed these presentations. There was a $100,000 state assistance grant provided to the Water Task Force for the Ramapo/Mahwah River Protection Plan. This grant will allow the Task Force to hire an expert in watershed assessment to analyze and assess the Ramapo watershed and provide a management plan. These watersheds have a direct impact on some of Rockland’s water supplies.

On July 31, the NYS Fire Prevention and Building Code Council gave final approval to a statewide building code change. This change, which will be effective October 31, will require WaterSense fixtures (toilets, urinals, showers, sinks, etc.) for all new construction. These changes will add significant improvements in water efficiency. This is a major accomplishment for the Task Force at the state level. If this did not pass at the state level, the Task Force would have needed approval from 5 different towns and 19 different villages throughout Rockland County.

Greg Mercurio, project designer for the Rockland Community College rain garden, met with the RCC facilities director to evaluate the proposed site location. This rain garden will address some of the existing drainage issues at the college. The project is awaiting finalization and approval.

At this time, there is no set date for a future meeting. The Task Force encourages members of the community to stay connected via its website (listed above) and by attending local meetings.