Rockland County Legislature Holds Public Discussion on Desalination Plant

BY MICHAEL RICONDA

NEW CITY – The Rockland County Legislature met at 7 p.m. on October 3 during which a number of speakers offered opinions and suggestions regarding United Water’s proposed desalination plant project.

The speakers’ concerns included the quality of desalinated water, the environmental impact of the plant’s operations, expenses related to the plant, proximity to the Indian Point facility, and alternatives to resolving the matter.

In 2005, the Public Service Commission was told that water scarcity was an issue and stressed the necessity of an alternative water supply. Five years later in 2010, United Water proposed the desalination plant as a solution to the problem.

Meeting contributors however, suggested the alternative of improving water supplies by updating existing water systems. They cited the proximity of the plant to Indian Point, raising concerns of dangerous levels of radiation.

In response to United Water’s claims that scarcity could result in insufficient water for fire personnel, former County Legislator Robert D. Jackson issued an open letter read by Tom O’Reilly, which criticized the group’s alarmist message and suggested infrastructural improvements.

“To use the threat of fire to support your position is totally reprehensible,” Jackson stated.

Chairperson of Rockland County Environmental Management Council Natalie Patasaw stated that the draft environmental impact statement (DEIS), a preliminary study of the plant’s environmental effects and safety, failed to address numerous concerns raised in previous public inquiries.

“There are too many unanswered questions regarding the real need for such an expensive source and water supply,” Patasaw said. “Additionally, there are too many conflicting statements about the actual need for this water source above all alternatives, including conservation.”

Legislator Harriet Cornell stated that the two primary public concerns are United Water rate increases and public transparency. She suggested that an issues conference might be held by the DEC, allowing for continued public participation.

“It’s really about process and about transparency and giving the public an opportunity to speak and to lay out what they consider to be different facts from those that were submitted initially under the DEIS,” Cornell said.

Though there was no vote upon the issue, Legislator Alden H. Wolfe announced that the legislature’s environmental committee will further discuss the desalination proposal on October 10 at 5:15 p.m.