PUBLIC HEARINGS SET FOR DESAL PLANT

United Water announced that the New York State DEC has provided “draft permits” for their Draft Environmental Impact Statement regarding the proposed desalination plant in Haverstraw. This means public hearings will be held and presided over by an administrative law judge from the DEC.

The public comment period is open until April 19 and public hearings are set for March 6 in Haverstraw Town Hall at 2 p.m. and 6 p.m. Originally the hearings were set for Febraury 28.

United Water is required by the state Public Service Commission to find a new source of water for the Rockland drinking supply that will be operable by the year 2015. In order to reach their deadline, United Water’s Steven Goudsmith told the Rockland County Times that the desal plant will have to be under construction by the end of 2012 or early 2013.

He noted that upon opening the desal plant go through will most likely be consumed by those in North Rockland (Haverstraw and Stony Point) while the rest of Rockland will continue to get primarily Lake DeForest and acquifer water on most days. The Rockland system is integrated however, so water from any source can be delivered to anywhere else in the county. Goudsmith said it’s an advantage to have several different sources to draw from.

In the first phase of the project the desal plant will draw 2.5 million of gallons of drinking water daily. He said, “If demand increases as expected, phase two would bring a total of 5 mgd and phase three a total of 7.5 mgd to the total water supply.”

By the time the desal plant is operating at full power, basic arithmetic says most of North Rockland’s water will be supplied from the plant.

Opponents of the desal project said they still believe the project can be stopped. George Potanovic Jr., a member of the Rockland Water Coalition, said the DEC’s approval of the DEIS “does not indicate the DEC’s approval of United Water’s plan, only that the proposal now…provides the information required for the public to begin its review.”

Goudsmith cited a different definition of draft permit. Goudsmith provided a DEC notice which states, “Department Staff concludes that the applications for these permits are complete within the meaning of 6 NYCRR §621.2(f) and has tentatively determined to issue a permit. Consequently, Department Staff has prepared a draft permit. Department Staff has determined that the conditions in the draft permit authorize the proposed activities and assure conformance of the facility with the standards for permit issuance set forth in 6 NYCRR § 750.”

Potanovic noted that on January 17, the Rockland Coalition for Sustainable Water made three requests of NYSDEC Region 3:

– A six-month public comment period for the newly complete Draft Environmental Impact Statement.

– Intervenor funding for municipalities and citizen groups to pay for independent expert review of the proposal.

– Multiple public hearings be held to accommodate participation in different locales.

Goudsmith said in his opinion most of the opponents of the desalination plant are misinformed and have the their ulterior motive of stopping development in Rockland County, something which is not controlled by United Water. Goudsmith said his company recognizes the growth in the county, as does the Rockland County Department of Health, which issued an opinion that more water supply is needed, and on top of that the company is ultimately responsible to uphold the mandate passed down from the PSC on gaining additional supplies.

He pointed out that when United Water investigated creating an Ambrey Pond reservoir in the late 1980s they also faced resistance. Now similar forces have been protesting the desal plant and claiming that an Ambrey Pond reservoir would be a superior choice.