New Exhibit Highlights Area Water Battles

Sunday opening in Stony Point features several speakers

BY ROBERT KNIGHT
CITY EDITOR
ROCKLAND COUNTY TIMES

A timely new exhibit on controversial water policies as they affect Rockland County will open Sunday in Stony Point, accompanied by a panel discussion among six local speakers on the topic in an event slated to attract a large crowd.

The program is being presented by Hudson Valley Exhibits, and is entitled simply “Water.” Company founder Corinne McGeorge says the exhibit and the program are particularly appropriate at this time, especially because of the raging controversy in North Rockland over plans by United Water Resources to construct a Hudson River desalinization plant off the Stony Point shoreline.

Other topics to be covered by both the exhibit and the panel discussion include traditional methods of water treatment, water supply alternatives, drought, flooding and flood prevention, water pollution, chemical spills, water quality and related subjects.

The program will begin at 2 p.m. Sunday in the Farley Room of the Stony Point Town Hall Annex in the Rho Building at the former Letchworth Village Developmental Center campus at 5 Clubhouse Lane, at the traffic light off Willow Grove Road, just off Exit 14 of the Palisades Interstate Parkway.

The introduction to the afternoon’s discussion will be given by former Journal-News columnist Robert Baird, starting sharply at 2 p.m., McGeorge says.

Members of the panel discussing the various water-related issues will include former Rockland County Legislature Chairperson Harriet Cornell, who is still a member of that county governing board and Gordon Wren, director of fire and emergency control services for Rockland County.

Others are Haverstraw Town Supervisor Howard Phillips, former Stony Point councilwoman Luanne Konopko and John Smith, a resident of Charleston, West Virginia.

In addition to the panel discussion guests will also view a new museum-quality exhibition on various water-related topics, including all of those included in the debate. Special emphasis is being placed on panels and discussions regarding desalinization, or “desal,” as it is commonly referred to, because of the current on-going debate over whether or not to permit United Water resources to construct such a facility in the Hudson River off the Stony Point’s shoreline.

United water has claimed Rockland and Bergen Counties, to which it supplies residential and commercial water, are running short of that vital commodity.

The private, French-owned company (United Water Suez) currently gets its water from two company-owned reservoirs, Lake Tappan in Orangetown and Lake DeForest in Clarkstown; as well as a series of wells scattered throughout the county but concentrated in Ramapo, Clarkstown and Orangetown.

United Water at first tried two decades ago to create a third local reservoir in North Rockland called Ambrey Pond, but, following fierce residential opposition in the area, never received governmental approval to do so.

Fearing a shortage of water if it didn’t act quickly, the firm then proposed the controversial “desal” plant, which would intake Hudson River water at Stony Point, treat it in a specially-constructed plant there, and then discharge the treated water into its local distribution system.

That plan has also generated tremendous opposition, both from Stony Point area residents and from conservationists in general. They contend that United Water should either expand its two existing reservoirs (by deepening or enlarging), drill more wells, or work with customers to reduce water consumption and repair existing leaks in the distribution. Any of these methods, or any combination of them, should extend an adequate water supply to Rockland and Bergen Counties for decades to come, the opponents claim, thus obviating the need for the controversial “desal” plant.

The display panels on desalinization and other water-related topics opened to public view on Tuesday, July 8, and will remain on display at the Town Hall annex through July 31. Rho Cottage is open to the public Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. and on Saturdays from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m.

The panels are located in the entrance lobby of the classic stone structure where many town offices and functions are located.